The SIC insists it remains committed to encouraging more islanders to recycle their waste – despite the imminent axing of kerbside collections in Lerwick and Scalloway.
From 1st April, fortnightly recycling col-lections will be halted in order to save £90,000 a year. But environmental health manager Maggie Sandison said “bring sites” at Lerwick’s two supermarkets were being expanded and the SIC was working with community councils to find other suitable sites where folk could take their recycling.
Funding of £29,000 from Zero Waste Scotland will allow improvements to be made to the recycling area at the Gremista dump. “We’re conscious it’s not maybe the most attractive place to go,” Mrs Sandison said.
Although some officials confess that taking the collection vehicle out of service is only liable to lessen the amount of waste being recycled in the short term, Mrs Sandison insisted: “What we have is a commitment to increase our recycling rate.”
Many local authorities in Scotland are moving towards a target of recycling 60 per cent of household waste. In 2011 the national average was 41 per cent. In comparison, the SIC only recycled 17 per cent that year – though that is largely because it focuses on converting rubbish into energy through the waste-to-heat plant, which supplies the district heating scheme.
The cost of collecting and shipping recycled material to the mainland is much higher due to Shetland’s remote location.
Environment and transport committee chair-man Allan Wishart said Zero Waste Scotland would be carrying out a waste audit with the SIC over the summer. After that a new waste strategy is to be drawn up and published in September.
Mr Wishart said the relatively low volume of material made it difficult to see how a recycling collection could be viable.
It costs £489 per tonne to collect recycling from people’s door-steps, compared to only £211 per tonne from “bring sites”.
He said: “The council is not giving up on recycling – nothing could be further from the truth. It’s just doing it differently. There needs to be quite a lot more emphasis on the necessity of recycling. I think collection banks are the answer to that.”
Mrs Sandison pointed out that only 30 per cent of Lerwick and Scalloway households used the kerbside collection. She hopes a good proportion of environmentally conscious people will make the extra effort to continue re-cycling.
“I would expect that some people may find it more inconvenient than having the collection on their doorstep,” Mrs Sandison said. “What we really want to do is try and encourage more people – some people were put off by having to keep recycling in the house for up to two weeks.”
Collection sites at Tesco and the Co-operative do not take plastic but new containers are being ordered which will change that.
Mrs Sandison said it was important that people recycled the right type of plastic – mainly just bottles – to ensure the recycling effort was not self-defeating. If other plastics, such as yoghurt and butter cartons, were included in the mix it could result in material being rejected at the other end by processors.
She said Zero Waste Scotland’s audit would tell the council what the composition of its waste was and “try to identify the best solution”.
“They’ll be taking our black bags, looking at what’s in them and what elements of recycling are in there,” she said.
Efforts are to be made to encourage more people from outwith Lerwick and Scalloway to bring their recycling into town on planned visits.
Mr Wishart said he hoped the change – like some other council cuts being ushered in – might result in a more neighbourly community spirit springing up.
He added: “If there are elderly and disabled, one would hope that neighbours would help them by taking bottles etc. for recycling.”