City of Edinburgh to overhaul kerbside recycling

Members of the City of Edinburgh Council's Transport and Environment Committee yesterday (27 August) agreed to ‘streamline’ the council’s recycling service to approximately 139,000 households in ‘low-density housing areas’ in a bid to boost recycling performance. 

Under the new £3.3 million system – set to be rolled out in 2014 – households will see their existing service replaced by ‘twin-stream collection approach’ involving a large blue bin for glass, textiles, small waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), and household batteries, and a blue box for cardboard, paper, plastics and metals. Both receptacles will be collected on the same day on a fortnightly basis. 

Currently, the council requires residents to separate their recyclables into six receptacles: 

  • Blue box: glass bottles, glass jars, food and drinks cans/tins, empty aerosols and clean aluminium foil
  • Blue bag: newspapers, magazines, computer paper, unwanted mail, all directories, wrapping paper
  • Textile bag: clothes, towels, clean sheets and shoes (in pairs)
  • Small clear bag: all types of household batteries
  • Red box: cardboard, cardboard food and drinks cartons (e.g. Tetrapak type cartons), cereal boxes and greeting cards
  • Large clear bag: all types of clean plastic bottles 

It is hoped the new simplified system will encourage greater participation, ‘maximise the operational flexibility’ of the service by delivering all services using in-house resources, and help the council reach its target of recycling 50 per cent of household waste by 2014 (up from the current rate of 44 per cent).

Service to save £736,000 a year

Although the new service requires an initial outlay of £3.3 million for the new bins (funded through ‘prudential borrowing’), the system is expected to eventually cost the council £736,000 a year less than the current arrangements.

Indeed, according to the business case for the new service, the reason for choosing a twin-stream approach was that it was the most cost-effective option after co-mingled collections. Justifying the decision to opt out of co-mingled collection, the business case reads: ‘Fully co-mingled dry recyclate collections, which are generally considered the simplest to use and most cost-effective collection system, were ruled out on the basis that they do not comply with the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012 (WSR).’ These regulations, set to come into force in 2014, require local authorities to collect recyclables in a way that ensures they are of high enough quality to be recycled back into the same product type (i.e. glass bottles to glass bottles).

‘Recycling rates need to rise more quickly’

Speaking of the new service, Councillor Jim Orr, Transport and Environment Vice-convener, said: "[Recycling] rates are increasing steadily but need to rise more quickly. One way to do this is to make it as easy as possible for householders to recycle…

"The environmental and financial benefits of reducing the amount of rubbish being sent to landfill, and increasing recycling instead, are now widely known. I urge householders to take advantage of the wide range of recycling facilities available either at kerbside or at recycling points across Edinburgh." 

The council has warned that the new system ‘might not be suitable for a small number of residents’, and that ‘every effort’ will be made to continue the current blue and red box service in these areas, where appropriate. 

It will now commence the procurement process for processing capacity, containers, and the vehicles required to implement the proposed twin-stream collection approach. 

Read the business case for the City of Edinburgh’s new recycling service.