Council skips into spring

Councillors are hoping there is no repeat of the unsavoury scenes witnessed at community recyclying centres (CRCs) last year, writes Andrew Keddie.

They heard on Thursday that staff at these facilities had been verbally abused and threatened by angry householders trying unsuccessfully to dispose of garden waste following the scrapping of kerbside green bin collections.

“The depth of feeling because of the decision [to withdraw the service] and the lack of capacity at the recycling centres meant some of our staff did, indeed, go through a tough time,” conceded Jenni Craig, Scottish Borders Council’s director of neighbourhood services.

“Garden waste skips were filled more frequently and, consequently, the sites were required to close while skips were being emptied. This led to queuing and understandable customer frustration.”

Ms Craig admitted: “There is no doubt the public is still unhappy about it. But hopefully lessons have been learned for this growing season.”

A report to Thursday’s full council meeting set out a series of measures which Ms Craig said would mitigate the impact of the decision to withdraw the garden waste collection.

The action was ordered last autumn as an olive branch to the 8,000 Borderers who signed an unsuccessful petition urging reinstatement.

Ms Craig gave a commitment that additional skips had now been installed at all six operating CRCs to increase capacity and reduce the need for closure. Skip uplift and emptying arrangements had also been altered. She also cited the upgrades to the CRCs at Peebles, Galashiels and Hawick, and a new site, due to come into operation next month, at Kelso.

These upgrades involve a capital spend of more than £1.3million.

Ms Craig accepted that less than 10 per cent of the 38,000 households which had enjoyed the fortnightly collections had been issued with bins capable of composting garden waste.

“We accept this is a low uptake and we would love it to increase,” she added.

Councillors backed the promotion, through an SBC webpage, of private sector collectors who had obtained the appropriate licence from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

However, the webpage will carry a disclaimer, absolving the council of responsibility if these operators act illegally.

Councillor Watson McAteer (Ind) said he was “extremely disappointed” that plans to provide green waste support to the elderly and vulnerable through so-called resilient communities – set up principally to harness a local response to severe weather events – have been unsuccessful. Councillors agreed to spend £12,000 in the current financial year to “better promote and market” SBC’s waste management services.