For the best part of a year now, townsfolk have been battling with arrangements for the disposal of household waste which is inadequate, not fit for purpose and downright dangerous.
Enough is enough and the officials and elected members responsible need to be held to account by the public they serve. First and foremost, Scottish Borders Council has a statutory duty to collect household waste, which includes garden waste, although SBC may determine those arrangements, including the size and number of receptacles.
However, under section 45 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (part two), the local authority does not have to provide a separate collection of garden waste. The service it provides must be “fit for purpose”. Therefore, it follows that if no separate collection of garden waste is provided, then garden waste may be included in the collection of other household waste, ie in the black bins.
In terms of the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012, the council is required to a provide a “collection service for dry recyclables” (ie “. . . paper, card, plastic, metal and glass . . .) and from January 2016 (apart from rural areas) food waste.
Note the reference to glass. Unlike some other Scottish councils, SBC chose not to implement a separate collection for glass. Therefore, it follows that if no separate collection of glass is provided, glass may be included in the blue bins? The council have obviously remained silent on this.
The kerbside recycling services introduced in 2005/2006 initially provided for weekly collections but these were reduced to fortnightly in 2010 to reduce costs. With the discontinuation of garden waste collections (which falls within the definition of household waste) the amount of household waste collected has now been cut twice from a total of around 540 litres per week (three 180-litre bins – one black, one blue and one green) to 180 litres per week (one 180-litre blue bin and one 180-litre black bin collected on alternate weeks). For many this is not adequate and I would suggest in terms of the legislation represents a service not fit for purpose.
Moreover, the community recycling centre in Hawick is also inadequate and not fit for purpose. Simply put it is an accident waiting to happen. Over the past year, particularly during the summer months, cars , vans, and cars and vans with trailers drive into and reverse out of the tight and limited number of parking bays simultaneously between pedestrians, many of them older people and carrying heavy/bulky materials which can partially obscure their view. They are often walking between moving vehicles, some going forward and others reversing.
During the week, residents are asked to place garden refuse into a skip which is at ground level. You have to walk up a ramp into the skip and if the waste is lying towards the front of the skip as it often is, you have to climb up onto the rubbish itself to dispose of it. I have actually been told to “get it as high up as possible” on a number of occasions, as has my 82-year-old father-in-law. This is an obvious health and safety hazard and downright dangerous.
The only appropriate way for such a system to operate safely and effectively is for the skip to be positioned lower than ground level so as to allow members of the public to deposit it from a gantry/access road higher than the height of the skip, as was the case at former recycling centre in Hawick and as is the case at Selkirk. I am very surprised that an accident has not yet happened, and I am so concerned for the coming year that I am referring this matter to the Health & Safety Executive.
There is a slightly better and safer facility to deposit garden waste in a loading bay in an adjacent compound, but that only opens at weekends. Do residents not attend to their gardens on weekdays? However, this weekend it was closed with a large council lorry blocking the entire bay, using it as a parking space. Apparently the local manager had approved the closure (despite four council workers –presumably being paid unsocial hours – being in attendance who could surely manage to open and shut the gates).
On querying the closure, I was initially told it was winter, but when I pointed that it was open between Christmas and the New Year, I was told that if a single complaint was made she [the manager] would open it up again. It was opened for me, but we had to squeeze between the parked lorry and a wall to deposit the garden waste.
I would urge townsfolk, particularly older people who may have no means of transporting ‘household waste’ which the council has a statutory duty to collect, to continue to make representations to SBC and their elected members that the current arrangements are inadequate and not fit for purpose. For a start, if collections are to remain fortnightly with no separate uplift of garden waste or glass, the council needs to provide larger or, upon request, additional bins.
Finally, readers may be interested to note that savings resulting from the withdrawal of garden waste collections were estimated to be approximately £475,000 per annum, whereas the estimated cost of introducing the new food waste collection service from April is estimated to be in the region of £600,000 per annum. This may be a legislative requirement placed on the council, but are people really going to store rotting food waste for up to a fortnight in their homes?
I fully understand that in the current economic climate savings have to be made, but I wonder why other councils, many of whom are in an even more challenging financial position than SBC, have not followed its lead in discontinuing garden waste collections. Is it because the council is wrong or, at best, trying to exploit a legal loophole?
Come the elections, I trust readers will remember those local councillors who voted for this ludicrous situation and act accordingly.