Rubbish review is launched as deadlines loom

One councillor says the local authority is 'basically starting with a blank sheet of paper'. Picture: Paul McSherry/JP
One councillor says the local authority is 'basically starting with a blank sheet of paper'. Picture: Paul McSherry/JP

Kerbside collections across the region are to be reviewed by Scottish Borders Council following the collapse of its plans to meet stringent waste management targets.

Councillors have heard that their so-called integrated waste management policy, adopted in December, 2013, had been “largely structured” around a 2012 contract with a firm called New Earth Solutions (NES).

In February this year, the council scrapped that deal – for a heat generating incineration-based plant to treat household and municipal waste and thus prevent it going to landfill – because the technology was untested and NES had failed to secure private investment.

As a result, not only has SBC been forced to write off the £2million it spent on the abortive procurement, it now needs a new plan to meet its obligations with deadlines for compliance approaching.

Under Scottish waste regulations, a ban on all biodegradable waste going to landfill will come into effect in January, 2021, while the Scottish Government’s Zero Waste strategy demands that 70% of all waste is recycled by 2025.

“We are basically starting with a blank sheet of paper,” admitted Councillor Michelle Ballantyne, leader of the Conservative opposition group, at last week’s full council meeting.

As a first step, the council has agreed to set up a member-officer reference group (MORG) to oversee the development of an alternative solution.

Five councillors – David Paterson (Ind, executive member for environmental services), Joan Campbell (SNP), Graham Garvie (Lib Dem), Gordon Edgar (Ind) and Simon Mountford (Con) – will sit on the group which will meet monthly and consider a range of “service elements”, including kerbside collections, waste treatment/disposal and bulk/transfer haulage.

Asked if the group would revisit the issue of green bin collections – controversially withdrawn as part of the now defunct integrated waste management policy – Jenni Craig, SBC’s director of neighbourhood services, said: “At this stage everything relating to waste management is under consideration in the development of the plan”.

Councillor Ballantyne told the meeting: “The whole issue of this council’s waste management policy is very confusing and our constituents struggle to make sense of it. We must ensure the public is fully engaged and informed as this plan progresses.”

The impact of the scrapping of garden waste collections for 38,000 urban households on the total amount of waste now being landfilled will be revealed in September when the Scottish Environment Protection Agency publishes its landfill data for 2014/15.