Edinburgh announces positive flat recycling results

Edinburgh announces positive flat recycling resultsPilots to improve recycling for flats in Edinburgh have resulted in a 300 per cent increase in the amount of glass collected for recycling, the council claims.

Since February, the City of Edinburgh Council has been carrying out two separate pilots designed to increase recycling performance in 2,200 flatted tenements in the Hillside and Bellevue areas. Both trials have seen existing separate paper and packaging banks converted to accept mixed recycling, as well as the addition of communal glass banks ‘where possible’.

In the Hillside area, the previous paper and packaging banks have been replaced with one communal bin for mixed recycling. Smaller individual blue boxes for glass, which have previously been collected every fortnight, have been replaced with communal on-street glass banks alongside the other communal bins so that householders do not have to store glass between collections. There has been no change to the shared residual waste bins or food waste bins in these areas.

The council says that over the pilot period, the new on-street bins have increased glass recycling by 300 per cent, from an average of 1.16 tonnes per fortnight to 3.69 tonnes.

In the Bellevue trial area, larger side-loading waste bins have been used to collect mixed recycling and landfill waste. While the capacity for residual waste has stayed the same, recycling capacity has increased. Again, the separate paper and packaging banks and individual blue glass boxes have been removed, and three communal glass banks have been placed in the area.

Mixed recycling has been recorded as rising by around 38 per cent (from 1.52 tonnes to 2.10 tonnes per fortnight) where on-street bins were made available instead of kerbside box collections. 

Lessons learned from pilots

A report presented to the council’s Transport and Environment Committee on Tuesday (7 June) said that the pilots had ‘achieved their objectives’ to increase recycling, but noted that ‘neither can be applied in a blanket approach across the relevant parts of the city’.

The council says that the size of the opening of the Bellevue bins led to an increase in contamination, as residual black bags could be put in, though it was still at a level ‘that would be considered to be manageable by recycling processors’.

However, it notes that ‘on a wider scale this would represent an unacceptable risk to the integrity of the recycling service and therefore side-loading bins will only be used where the bin lids can be adapted to keep contamination of the recycling to a minimum’.

The report also notes, however, that the pilot has led to three lessons being learnt:

  • ‘The placement of recycling bins next to landfill bins reduces issues around contamination of recycling;
  • ‘The amount of recycling collected is influenced by convenience for residents; and
  • ‘Changes in the ratio of landfill to recycling capacity does not correlate in increased dumping.’

Following the pilots, results will be used to devise a new service to flats in Edinburgh that the council hopes to roll out in March 2017. However, any future roll-out of new recycling provision will only take place once the detail of the Scottish Government’s Code of Practice on Waste Management has been finalised.

‘Simplifying recycling’

The City of Edinburgh Council’s Environment Convener, Councillor Lesley Hinds, said: “We are making great strides to reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill here in Edinburgh, with a number of successful initiatives to encourage recycling under way.

“It makes absolute sense that we also focus efforts on simplifying recycling for those living in flatted and tenemental properties too, and these results demonstrate that there’s lots that can be done.”

Last month, the City of Edinburgh Council announced that a new recycling service offered to 140,000 low-rise households in the city had increased the amount of waste recycled by 29 per cent over its first year.

The report into the flat recycling pilots can be found on the council’s website.

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