Bin collections across Aberdeenshire will be reduced to every three weeks under new plans to encourage more recycling.
The proposed changes, which are said to be at an “advanced stage” of development, will introduce a third bin to every household in the region.
One councillor said the move would add a further layer of complication to a system that many already find confusing.
Massive scheme would cost millions to implement
Under the plans, 120,000 new plastic bins will be distributed to every household in Aberdeenshire – at a cost of around £4.5million.
These new, smaller bins will be for waste destined for landfill.
The bins currently used for landfill would then be designated for non-paper recyclable materials, with the blue bin for paper and card.
Each bin would be emptied once every three weeks.
Aberdeenshire Council currently collects once every two weeks, with a grey bin for landfill waste and a blue bin for paper, card, tins, cans and plastic.
These are collected on alternate weeks, but the local authority says the present arrangement means that not enough material is being recycled.
The council originally applied to Zero Waste Scotland in 2019 for funding to implement the new system, however the application was declined.
The government quango is now looking for fresh expressions of interest from councils, and Aberdeenshire officials are hopeful of success this time.
System in Aberdeenshire is already ‘dysfunctional’
North Kincardine councillor Colin Pike fears changes to bin collections could result in more fly-tipping.
Rubbish being dumped illegally is becoming a growing problem, with Aberdeenshire Council reporting a huge 66% increase in fly-tipping to 1.143 incidents in the 11 months after lockdown compared with the same period previously.
Mr Pike said: “We as councillors are elected by the public to work in the public’s interest.
“The waste and recycling system in Aberdeenshire is totally dysfunctional, don’t make it more so.
“We are so far behind on this. Look around you at the bins on collection day.
“In the city you can put glass in the recycling bin, but not in the Shire.
“Paper and card? There’s already a glut of that in recycling.
“Keep the system as simple as possible, ‘stick it in the bin’, this is what people pay council tax for.
“There’s no need to make this complicated.
“By keeping it simple, you also reduce fly tipping.
“With 120,000 new bins, even aside from the cost there’s the huge administrative tasking of getting the bins out to each and every household.
“It’s a huge logistical exercise – Aberdeenshire’s a huge geographical area.”
Mr Pike praised the council for keeping up regular collections throughout the pandemic, but has taken issue with the way in which he says the authority is trying to “sneak” the changes through.
‘If you object, make your voice heard’
“What I resent is the way that this is almost being sneaked through,” he said.
“Yes, it was put to public consultation in 2019.
“But there’s been a huge amount of change in that time, we’re in a totally different economic landscape compared to two years ago.
“There needs to be a public consultation on this now.
“We need to tell the public in advance what is happening, not after the event.
“My advice to people would be: if you don’t like what you’re hearing, lobby your councillor, write to them, ask them if they’re going to support these plans or if they’re going to represent the public.
“I don’t think this is representing the public. This is one occasion when the public need to shout out now if they are not happy.”
Residents ‘perfectly capable’ of adapting to new system
Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee (ISC) chairman Peter Argyle hit back at Mr Pike’s claims.
He said: “I’m incredibly disappointed in Councillor Pike’s attitude, it’s not very helpful and it’s a shame he’s taking this view.
“His view of the ability of our residents to understand recycling rules is very different from mine.
“The proposed changes are very straightforward and I think residents are perfectly capable of understanding them.
“The key is to make sure full information is available to residents.
“If anything, I think it will encourage them to recycle even more.”
He added: “There was a full consultation on the proposed changes in January 2019.
“They are still proposed changes, nothing has been decided.
“The plans are subject to funding from Zero Waste Scotland, a decision on which is due within the next couple of months.
“Ultimately, we have to drive up the amount of waste we are sending to recycling, and drive down the amount of waste we are sending to landfill.
“We’re not trying to make life difficult, we’re trying to increase recycling. And this is not just us, by the way, this is something all of Scotland is looking at.”
Massive cost of sending rubbish to landfill could be offset by new collection regime
An Aberdeenshire Council spokesman said changing the collections routine would be an “effective” way to encourage more recycling.
He said: “Over 70% of the waste we produce in Aberdeenshire is recyclable using the existing recycling services provided by the council – the crux is to get residents to use the services provided.
“One of the most effective ways to encourage recycling is by reducing the black refuse bin capacity.
“These plans were approved by Infrastructure Services Committee in 2019, but were put on hold due to funding issues and Covid-19.
“We are in the early stages of submitting a bid to a new £70 million Scottish Government recycling fund which could provide the council with an opportunity to revisit its plans to introduce a three-weekly kerbside collection service.
“This would see refuse collected once and recycling twice in every three weeks, increasing Aberdeenshire’s recycling rate from the current 44% to over 50%.”
Thirty thousand tonnes of recyclable material is landfilled in Aberdeenshire at a cost of £3.5 million per year.
And another 10,000 tonnes is landfilled through recycling centres at a cost of £1.2 million per year.
Bin changes have caused uproar in other areas
Elsewhere in Scotland, a roll-out of three-weekly bin collections is currently ongoing in Glasgow and is proving similarly controversial.
Residents are grappling with “confusing” rules incorporating a blue, brown, green and purple bin.
Branch 40 of the GMB union launched its Streets of Shame campaign in response to the roll-out which, it claimed, was partly responsible for turning the city’s streets into a “warzone” filled with litter which was contributing to problems with vermin.
Clackmannanshire Council were forced to review bin collections last year after residents complained over how confusing the rules were, while in parts of Edinburgh residents have had to keep track of up to seven different bins.
Data from confused.com shows that 40% of the public think recycling rules should be simplified.