by DOUG COLLIE
A new set of environmental data for 2016 shows Scottish Borders Council sent an extra 347 tonnes of household waste to landfill last year, and local recycling achievements lagged far behind most of the rest of Scotland.
The official statistics released by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency [SEPA] places the Borders in the bottom four of 32 Scottish local authorities when it comes to the percentage of waste buried in the ground.
It means there is no sign that the local landfill tax bill, currently running at £2.50 million per year, will be reduced any time soon. And SBC appears to be failing to persuade its citizens to generate less garbage with the overall total for 2016 up by more than 2,000 tonnes.
Borders consumers of local government services were promised a fit for purpose waste management strategy in 2015 after the catastrophic collapse of a £23 million project to develop a treatment facility at Easter Langlee, Galashiels. The latest wheeze is to take the refuse away in fleets of lorries for treatment elsewhere - a seemingly desperate ploy to beat landfill deadlines at a cost of more than £1 million annually in expenditure on road haulage.
Had elected members stuck with proposals to have a Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) plant up and running at Easter Langlee by late 2013 then the drain on landfill tax could well have been cut by £2 million per annum.
But instead they decided to gamble by incorporating a useless form of incineration into the scheme to convert rubbish into electricity. After four years of delays and major technical hitches the entire waste treatment project was abandoned with taxpayers picking up a £2.4 million bill for absolutely no return.
According to SEPA's statistical tables Scottish Borders generated 51,921 tonnes of waste last year compared to 49,848 tonnes in 2015. The volume sent to landfill (30,702) represented 59.13% of the total. The equivalent figures for 2015 were 30,355 tonnes and 60.9%.
The only three authorities with a higher percentage of rubbish being buried were Glasgow City, Western Isles and Aberdeen City. To demonstrate what SBC might/should be achieving, Dundee City landfilled a mere 6.82%, Renfrewshire 24.2% and Angus 25.5%. The Scottish average - like the average recycling rate - was 45.2%.
It is worth noting just how far Borders is behind targets for recycling which were set by the Scottish Government at the beginning of the present decade. By 2012 authorities were meant to be recycling 50% of waste with that proportion meant to escalate to 70% by 2025. SBC has just recorded a 39.03% recycling rate for 2016, up from 37.3% in 2015.