Scottish Borders Council's poor record when it comes to waste management services has been laid bare in a respected online magazine which warns time is running out for the local authority to come up with a plausible plan for the future.
An article compiled by Let's Recycle senior writer Tom Goulding catalogues the council's disastrous 24-year deal with New Earth Solutions Group which collapsed in disarray last year with millions of pounds lost by both of the contract partners.
But in fact councillors and senior officials at SBC have been dithering over a so-called waste management strategy since at least 2006 with nothing to show for their efforts. The latest version of that strategy (it could probably be numbered 'draft 20') is expected to be unveiled later this year.
Meanwhile vast quantities of the region's municipal rubbish continues to be landfilled at Easter Langlee, near Galashiels, resulting in an annual landfill tax bill of £2.5 million. And a replacement system to replace the abandoned gasification option proposed by the council and New Earth will cost local taxpayers millions more.
Mr. Goulding writes: "Time is running out for Scottish Borders Council to develop a new waste management plan, with its landfill sites expected to reach full capacity by the end of 2017. The council has yet to confirm its future residual waste disposal arrangements".
There should have been no need for this scandalous state of affairs nor a last ditch rush to solve the had the council and its chosen firm of "specialists" delivered a conventional treatment plant by 2012. If that had been achieved the tonnage of garbage being buried underground would have fallen by now from 30,000 tonnes per annum to a highly respectable 6,000 tonnes.
That 30,000-tonne statistic - equivalent to 3,000 loaded refuse collection vehicles, according to the article - compares extremely unfavourably to the indicative tonnages which would have applied under a landfill allowance scheme. If Scottish local authorities had been made to meet their landfill targets, SBC should only have been burying 18,400 tonnes by 2012/13 and 16,000 tonnes in 2015/16.
Mr Goulding says the council is currently assessing feedback from a waste management consultation exercise which resulted in 1,400 people submitting ideas for the future of the service.
People were asked to respond to a range of questions, including their reaction to a potential reduction in the frequency of waste collections from fortnightly to every three or four weeks. Such a proposal is unlikely to have gone down well with 'customers' who remain outraged at the loss of garden waste uplifts, a move which has hit SBC's recycling rates hard.
A council spokesman told Let's Recycle: "All responses and comments will be considered as part of a review which is being driven by a number of factors, including the need to reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfill".
That statement might sound sensible, but unfortunately council representatives were saying the same thing in 2009 before they signed up to that useless contract with new Earth. It seems nothing has changed.
At present the favoured option is to close Easter Langlee's landfill site, construct a waste transfer station on the disused New Earthj Solutions site and transport Borders waste to treatment facilities in other parts of Scotland.
Mr Goulding points out that this strategy will cost SBC an estimated £6.8 million between now and 2025, an increase of more than £4.5 million when set alongside the authority's current waste disposal budget for the same period.