Saturday, 24 September 2016

Borders council's shocking environmental record continues


Greenhouse gas emissions from Scottish Borders Council's landfill site reached their highest levels for seven years in 2015 while the authority's recycling performance remained close to the bottom of Scotland's waste treatment league table at a pathetic 37.3%, nine percentage points below the national average.

Statistics newly released by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) reveal an 11 per cent increase in methane gas being emitted from the Easter Langlee site where 30,355 tonnes or 60.9% of the region's household waste was landfilled last year.

The figure for methane was recorded at 403,000 kg, a staggering 40 times above the reporting threshold of 10,000 kg. It is the highest total for methane since 2009 and compares with the 2014 level of 361,000 kg.

Much of the rest of Scotland may be meeting their greenhouse gases reduction targets. But there is no sign that is happening in the Borders where environmental issues appear to be given a low priority.

The picture is equally concerning when it comes to deadly chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs] and hydrochlorofluorocarbons [HCFCs] produced at the Easter Langlee site. In both cases the totals emitted in 2015 were the highest for several years.

The reporting threshold for CFCs and HCFCs is 1 kg per annum. The CFCs logged at the Borders treatment centre added up to 34 kg in 2015, well up on the 31.1 kg recorded in 2014. The figures for the previous two years were 27.5 kg (2013) and 32.8 kg (2012).

HCFC emissions increased by an alarming 44% in the space of 12 months, up from 23.9 kg in 2014 to 34.6 kg last year. The 2015 return was also considerably higher than in 2013 (26.5 kg) and 2012 (28.3 kg).

Waste data returns, also published on SEPA's website do not show Scottish Borders in a good light. Just 18,600 of the 49,848 tonnes of household rubbish generated were recycled. And a paltry 892 tonnes (1.8%) were diverted from landfill.

The 37.3% recycled represents a marginal improvement from 36.7% in 2014 when 49,952 tonnes of waste were collected and 30,666 were landfilled. Only 940 tonnes (1.9%) were diverted from landfill.

Not Just Sheep & Rugby looked at the statistics for SBC's immediate local government neighbours to see how they performed in 2015.

Dumfries & Galloway generated 74,092 tonnes of waste, landfilled 21,767 tonnes (29.4%), recycled 20,091 tonnes (27.1%) but diverted the remaining 32,235 tonnes (43.5%) from landfill.

East Lothian generated 50,906 tonnes of waste, landfilled 22,526 tonnes (44.2%), recycled 26,163 tonnes (51.4%) and diverted 2,217 tonnes (4.4%) from landfill.

Midlothian generated 42,076 tonnes of waste, landfilled 14,227 tonnes (33.8%), recycled 20,136 tonnes (47.9%) and diverted 7,714 tonnes (18.3%) from landfill.

And yet the Borders' appalling record could have been very different had the council managed to provide its population with a modern treatment facility at Easter Langlee instead of becoming involved in their disastrous partnership with New Earth Solutions Group between 2011 and 2015,

The original intention was to develop a conventional processing centre which would have diverted at least 80 per cent of waste from landfill. Had the plant been completed on time in 2013 then those disgraceful emission levels would probably have been decreasing in line with the rest of the country.

Instead elected members sanctioned a contract variation which they thought would bring them glory as the leading waste disposal authority in Scotland. But the (not so) advanced thermal technology let them down badly while the (now liquidated) funding company could not come up with the £21 million needed to build the Galashiels facility.

The contract was abandoned in disarray, and just to compound matters the same set of councillors also voted to scrap garden waste collections - the only authority in Scotland to do so.

Those awful statistics on recycling, landfilling and greenhouse gas emissions are a direct result of that flawed decision making. But there seems to be little or no pressure from Government agencies on SBC to turn around its dreadful record of recent years.

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