SBC’s competency is questioned

A new report has revealed that in the three months after garden waste collections were scrapped, Scottish Borders Council had to fork out £138,000 in extra landfill costs.

Over the same quarter from April 1 to June 30, the volume of household waste recycled in the region fell from 44.44% in the corresponding period of last year to just 34.52%.

The amount of household waste going to landfill at Easter Langlee in Galashiels surged from 7,281 tonnes to 8,152 tonnes – an increase of 12%.

And the landfilling cost to the council has rocketed by 26.32% - from £524,205 to £652,160.

In his performance report to Tuesday’s meeting of SBC’s executive, waste manager Ross Sharp-Dent candidly cited the “removal of the garden waste collection” as the reason for the negative trends, adding that Landfill Tax – levied by the Scottish Government – had gone up from £72 to £80 per tonne over the year.

Confirming “actions to improve or maintain performance”, he said a new community recycling centre in Kelso was due to open in the spring of 2015 while others would be upgraded.

He flagged up the new integrated waste treatment facility at Easter Langlee - not due to open until at least 2017 - which, he said, would “capture recyclates previously destined for landfill”.

Mr Sharp-Dent also noted that overall recycling would increase and landfill dumping reduce when a statutory food waste collection service is introduced next summer for 24,000 households in Galashiels, Tweedbank, Selkirk, Jedburgh, Hawick and Peebles.

Unsurprisingly, the data was seized on by former Hawick councillor Andrew Farquhar who gathered an 8,000-signature petition demanding reinstatement of the green bin service.

His rearguard action was ultimately unsuccessful with the council endorsing its decision to scrap the uplifts on October 30, albeit with an explicit expression of regret for the “inconvenience and disturbance” it had caused.

“To say the decision to scrap garden waste collections has been a false economy is indeed an understatement given the colossal extra costs incurred in just three months,” said Mr Farquhar.

“Along with the embarrassing reduction in recycling, it is an outcome which everyone except the council could have predicted.

“I think the council has a problem with competency.”