Epitaph to the green bin

Information about arranging for the uplift of unused green bins after August 8 was published in the most recent edition of Scottish Borders Council’s Connect newspaper.

This move indicates that the unpopular decision by the local authority to withdraw the kerbside garden waste service is final and will not be revisited, in spite of widespread public outrage.

The council acknowledges that the decision to remove this service was a difficult one. It certainly proved to be controversial, which is not surprising because it affected 35,000 households and involved shifting 8,000 tons of garden waste annually. Many households cannot compost all their waste and there are others unable to get to recycling centres.

The long-awaited private sector entrepreneurs expected to fill the gap in service left by the council have failed to materialise, probably due to the red tape involved and a requirement to invest in suitable containers and vehicles.

Green bins were introduced some years ago as an integral part of a very sensible waste strategy that successfully reduced levels of general waste going to landfill. The green bin service proved to be very popular.

The decision to withdraw this non-mandatory service was made without proper consultation and clearly little thought went into planning on how to deal with the consequences. It now appears that some council vehicles that previously uplifted 7.5 tons of general waste on a run are now regularly collecting 10 tons since the green waste stopped. This means a significant increase in landfill tax at £80 per ton.

There is also a noticeable increase in fly-tipping.

The new policy makes a mockery of efforts by governments, local authorities and other organisations to meet tough targets for the reduction of greenhouse emissions.

For example, to serve the town of Kelso the regular removal of garden waste required three council vehicles collecting approximately eight tons each. The use of cars to transport the equivalent weight will involve approximately 240 journeys to the recycling depot. Surely an act of environmental vandalism.

Costly upgrades are now required at recycling centres to cope with the increase in traffic.

The portfolio holder has claimed that other councils were also discontinuing green waste collections to save money – but there is little evidence of this happening. Neighbouring authorities are reviewing their arrangements for handling waste to reduce landfill, but according to their websites, East Lothian, Midlothian, West Lothian, South Lanarkshire, Fife and Falkirk still operate green waste collections and are planning services with four bin collections. All this makes no sense and Scottish Borders Council should heed public opinion and think again on this one.

Andrew Farquhar

Park View