EXCLUSIVE - by EWAN LAMB
Scottish Borders Council's abject failure in its various attempts and so-called initiatives to cut down the volume of household waste going to landfill is producing a horrific environmental legacy for present and future generations.
Not Just Sheep & Rugby can reveal that emissions of harmful methane gas from the council's landfill site at Easter Langlee on the outskirts of Galashiels increased by a staggering 20% in 2014, exceeding the reportable threshold 36-fold.
Meanwhile the amount of domestic rubbish buried at Langlee (30,666 tonnes) represented the highest total for several years, exceeding the Scottish Government's landfill allowance of 17,654 tonnes by no less than 73.7%.
The Borders statistics, available on the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) website, look even worse when comparisons are made with what is happening nationally. Total methane emissions at 122 sites across the country fell by 9.3% while the national landfill tonnage dropped for the fourth year in a row.
SBC councillors were warned in 2008 that the so-called "do nothing" option on this vital issue was, in fact, not an option, and was unacceptable both from a legislative and environmental viewpoint. But nothing is precisely what they have done since 2002 when the matter was first flagged up.
Now their inaction and incompetence can be directly linked to the 361,000 kg of methane given off by the rotting rubbish at Easter Langlee during 2014. The emissions are up from 300,000 kg in 2013 and represent the highest volume of the leaking gas since at least 2009.
Methane is 21 times more harmful to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. But there are other toxic substances being emitted, adding to the cocktail of chemicals coming out of the ground.
For example, the reporting threshold for CFCs and HCFCs is just 1 kg per annum. Easter Langlee gave off 31.1 kg of CFCs and 23.9 kg of HCFCs last year.
The elected members at SBC were told yet again in 2011 in a document marked "Confidential - Not for Publication": "Overall, the Council cannot legislatively or financially afford to continue to direct the majority of the waste to landfill".
But since then the percentage of household refuse finding its way underground at Easter Langlee has spiralled from 53.3% to 61.4%...one of the highest landfill figures in Scotland. And the council, rather than tackling the issue resolutely, took waste management off in the opposite direction by banning garden refuse collections.
Between 2011 and 2014 SBC exceeded its landfill allowance by 35,449 tonnes. Had the system of fines for exceeding allowances not been suspended by the Scottish Government the council would have been liable for financial penalties of £5,317,350. But such a threat does not appear to have been a matter of concern for those in charge of waste management.
An experienced executive who works in the industry told us: "The figures speak for themselves; it is disgraceful how people have managed to retain their
positions in light of this. Clearly they do not take responsibility for their
environmental responsibilities. They are also in breach of the EU regulations. I simply do not understand why the culprits have not been made to account for their apparent incompetence."