Photo: Nicholas Hotham
Over the past several months, I have been engaging with community groups, heritage bodies and the City of Edinburgh Council to hear views and facilitate discussions around the issue of the proposed changes to how refuse is collected in Edinburgh.
One of the key sticking points is the proposal to remove the use of gull bags. Resident organisations and individuals in these areas have expressed several concerns, among them:
- The current means of refuse collection is working well. As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
- The proposed bin hubs mean some people have to walk further to dispose of their rubbish. This could cause difficulty for those with mobility issues.
- The proposed bin hubs may encourage pests in the areas and create mess
- The proposed bin hubs are unsightly and will damage the aesthetics of the New Town and potentially harm the New Town’s status as a World Heritage Site.
In recognition of this, I created the Scottish Parliament’s first live survey page that will allow me to get feedback on key issues as they happen in Edinburgh Central. I wrote to residents who currently use gull bags to encourage them to feed in their views.
The response has been great, and the survey on bin hubs has seen nearly 900 respondents offer their views.
Given the energetic discussion being had about the bin survey, it is of no surprise that awareness of this issue is high.
Indeed, nearly every respondent showed awareness of the proposed changes:
The insights from the survey on the matter of gull bags are fairly clear. Question 3 asked
‘To what extent do you support the proposed changes in your area?’
82% of people are completely unsupportive of the proposed changes, and nearly 6% are somewhat unsupportive. This compares to around 10% who are somewhat or fully supportive (the rest neutral).
Question 5 asked
‘To what extent are you satisfied with current arrangements for refuse collection in your local area?’
Responses corresponded with what you may expect given the answers to whether people supported bins.
Indeed, 56% of people are completely satisfied with their current bin collection method, with 28% somewhat satisfied. 12% were somewhat or completely unsatisfied (the rest neutral).
The survey also asked for individual comments. It is fair to say many more comments were critical of the changes than supportive. A sample of these is below.
Unsupportive of changes to bin hubs
- I have no fundamental issues with bin hubs… where appropriate to the area. Clearly, the new town is not at all appropriate for the current bin hubs and would reduce the visual appreciation of the Georgian streets and architecture which is one of the city’s major selling points. Perhaps, if they were aesthetically designed to try to minimise their unpleasant visual effects, a workable compromise could be found… with the agreement of local community councils and affected/concerned residents.
- After some consideration in 2013, gull-proof bags, rather than communal bins, were approved for use in our area by the Council in recognition of that fact that the communal bins in the area would not be practical or appropriate. I do not see that this situation has changed. The system of gull-proof bags and recycling bins has worked well since then.
- Convenient, easy to use and regularly collected, and does not spoil the pleasantness of our surrounding area, which would otherwise be spoiled by the installation of large black bins and with possible overflow of waste.
- Gull bags have proved to be a good solution for my street as they replaced the black plastic bags which were often attacked by gulls. Unlike the permanent bins that are proposed, the gull bags which are fairly unobtrusive are removed by their owners and don’t become yet another addition to our street furniture. I also think that by using gull bags, owners take more individual responsibility for disposing of their own waste.
- I do not support the placing of large communal bin hubs on the [street]. There is a major issue with traffic and speeding cars on the [street] which is often very dangerous (difficult at times even to cross the road, especially with young children). Communal bins would cause further congestion and add to this problem. Also, large communal bin hubs would look terrible in the [street] which is part of a world heritage site. There is no need to add such bins. The current system works very well.
- Communal bins are completely unnecessary and will spoil the appearance of a beautiful street which many tourist buses visit. The current system works well whereas other communal bins are not only unsightly but are often left overflowing with rubbish which then creates a further mess. The council has also recently reorganised the parking in the street and that work would be wasted if areas need to be reallocated for bins.
Supportive of changes to bin hub
- Gull bags are unhygienic – both for those collecting them and for those storing them. (For example, dog waste is disposed of in gull bags which must be man-handled.) Recycling material invariably scatters over the street, either due to gusts of wind while awaiting collection, or to unavoidable carelessness during collection. The streets are therefore frequently filled with rubbish.
- Bin hubs, where they have been installed in Edinburgh, are unsightly and unhygienic – a magnet for seagulls and vermin. This method is unsuitable in any location, but most of all in the Conservation Areas of central Edinburgh, and most particularly in the World Heritage Site.
- I have difficulty carrying the large recycling crates downstairs. I also don’t use black plastic bin bags and prefer more eco-friendly lighter bags which means I can’t use the gull bags.
- Living in a flat means storing rubbish can be difficult week to week. I already use communal bins if I am going to be away for collection day.
Having heard from constituents, it was likely that the majority opinion on the proposed changes—particularly in areas that have gull bags—is clear. The data supports this assumption and we can now take this to stakeholders, including the City of Edinburgh Council.
Following our prior discussions between community groups and the City of Edinburgh Council representatives, I am pleased to see the Council has agreed to pause the rollout of the bin hubs in the gull bag areas.
I will continue to engage with residents, community groups, heritage bodies and the Council to facilitate conversation and reflect the views of my constituents.
This survey is now closed but, if you would like to feed in your thoughts, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.