Thursday, 1 October 2015

Top of the heap to bottom of the pile!


Just four years ago, a confidential report written by leading officials at Scottish Borders Council included a bold prediction that they were set to become the leading waste management authority in Scotland.

But this week, following the release of waste data for 2014 SBC finds itself at or near the foot of the waste recycling league table and almost top of the list for the amount of rubbish it sends to landfill.

The council's woeful record in the field of waste management, despite squandering countless millions of pounds on useless schemes and projects since 2002, has been aggravated by desperately bad decisions by councillors in recent times.

It is now clear the suspension of separate garden waste kerbside collections in 2014 has punctured the Borders' already pathetically thin green credentials. And the negative impact following the failure to develop and complete a waste management facility capable of dealing with 80 per cent of the region's garbage in 2013 has affected the statistics in a big way.

The newly released waste management figures for SBC published by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) tell a very sorry tale. The council's recycling rate is down by 9.6% from 46.3% in 2011 to 36.7% last year. Over that four year period the tonnage being recycled slumped from 24,897 to 18,345, a dramatic fall of 26.3%.

Only three other councils in mainland Scotland recycled a smaller proportion of their waste than Borders. And between 2011 and 2014 the tonnage being landfilled at Easter Langlee shot up from 53.3% to 61.4%. An extra 1,978 tonnes were buried in the ground even though the total waste generated by Borders households fell in the corresponding years from 53,822 tonnes to 49,952. Glasgow City is now the sole mainland authority which landfills a greater percentage of its garbage than SBC.

Yet that confidential document from March 2011 - it concerned SBC's new waste management contract with Dorset-based New Earth Solutions Group - proudly declared: "This contract will make Scottish Borders Council the lead authority in Scotland with a facility and contract that can be adapted over time to meet the changing needs of the waste industry".

The unnamed author of that verbal tosh should be asked to explain why the predicted triumph failed to materialise, and what has gone wrong in the interim. And it is to be hoped other Scottish councils are not still waiting for the delivery of the Borders template on which to base their own management schemes.

For the record, here are the SBC statistics for the last four years:

Year     Waste generated  %recycled    % landfilled      tonnage landfilled
2014       49,952 tonnes       36.7              61.4                  30,666
2013       51,242 tonnes       41.3              56.2                  28,821
2012       52,861 tonnes       42.8              55.7                  29,940
2011       53,822 tonnes       46.3              53.3                  28,688

The amount going to landfill far exceeds the limits set in the Scottish Government's Landfill Allowance Scheme (LAS), which was revoked in 2012. But in a future article we will use LAS figures to illustrate just how badly SBC has performed in the field of waste management and outline the implications for the Borders if the suspended system of fines are reintroduced.

The fact is that this most basic yet vital local government service is being poorly delivered, and is not being afforded the priority it deserves. Councillors have taken their eye off the ball, concentrating instead on "prestige" projects like the tapestry museum which, unlike waste disposal, will not affect every household in the region.

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