Free bin bags scheme dumped

The days when households are issued with free essy bags could well be a thing of the past, following council moves to stop issuing black bags without charge.

A report before councillors has outlined plans to end the supply of refuse sacks free of charge to homes in a bid to save the council almost £25,000 as part of its major belt-tightening exercise.

Members of today’s environment and transport committee backed calls to stop supplying 52 bags across 10,500 households in the isles each year.

Instead bags will be offered at a discounted price of £3.50, rather than the current £11 charged per box, if that is agreed by the full council next month.

Director of infrastructure Maggie Sandison said an opportunity had arisen to consider the “discretionary spend” on free black bags.

The cost of supplying the bags set the council back more than £23,000 in 2013/14. However, Mrs Sandison said the figure was closer to £30,000 when delivery time was factored into the equation.

“The cost of providing the sacks is £23,783, but that doesn’t take account of the 54 ‘man days’ needed to deliver the sacks,” she said.

Instead of being taken to individual addresses, Mrs Sandison said bags would be sold from rural shops to ensure everyone has access to them.

She added Shetland was one of just five local authorities in Scotland which still carries out weekly waste collections.

Questioned by George Smith, Mrs Sandison said the infrastructure’s £37 million budget covered essential services such as ferries, roads, burial grounds and refuse collections.

“Our budgets are now at a level where lifeline services struggle to be delivered and we have to look at discretionary elements of what we do.”

As alternatives to stopping the flow of essy bags Mrs Sandison said her department had considered other options, such as closing the landfill site earlier. However the ending of the public skip service last year had led to an increase in demand.

Other options, such as reducing the levels of street cleaning and reducing grass cutting at burial grounds had also been considered but were deemed unsuitable.

Jonathan Wills – cut is an “unpleasant but necessary duty”.

 Jonathan Wills described the move as an “unpleasant but necessary duty”.

He asked whether progress was being made on the council composting its waste.

Mrs Sandison said composting failed to work properly on a municipal basis, because temperatures in Shetland mean the compost does not biodegrade as much as might be hoped.

She added the council was working with Zero Waste Scotland as part of an effort to find best ways of collecting rubbish. Consideration had been given to fortnightly collections. But Mrs Sandison said the isles benefited from the waste to heat energy plant at Gremista.

Robert Henderson was keen to ensure rural shops could gain some return for selling the bags

Fellow North Isles member Gary Cleaver sought an assurance that high-quality bags would be used.

Convener Malcolm Bell said £3.50 represented a “good deal”. He questioned whether the infrastructure department was satisfied it could cope with demand.


Add Your Comment
  • Alasdair Harmsworth

    • April 23rd, 2014 20:51

    The council is trying to tell us that composting does not work…………try telling that to the many gardeners that have a compost bin/heap that seems to work really well, probably they are just trying to justify they’re jobs. They really would need to get rid of the higher paid council staff and save a flaming fortune as they are pretty incompetent anyway!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Ali Inkster

    • April 23rd, 2014 21:03

    For christs sake just cancel the order for black bags, rural shops are quite capable of sourcing black bags. (its what we do) at £1 for 10 it wont break anybodies bank, I would rather the public toilets in Hamnavoe were kept open than have to deal with the council supplying bloody bin bags.

  • Bill Smale

    • April 24th, 2014 11:12

    The report of this meeting makes sad reading. There is no mention of the wheelie bins which the council offers as an alternative to the black bags it should be seeking to phase out. Eric Pickles has issued guidance to councils in England and Wales advocating a return to weekly refuse collections – we should be proud of our service and not using the ‘coming in line with the rest of Scotland’ argument as an excuse for further cuts. An assessment needs to be made of the impact of cuts already made in the collecting materials for recycling in urban areas and the withdrawal of the Community Council skips in rural areas. The council has spent a lot of money encouraging people to home compost. It is a sorry reflection if their boffins cannot get municipal composting to work. Shetland’s climate doesn’t make composting easy but by using insulated containers and surplus heat from the waste to energy plant or power station to kick start the process, it should be possible for the council to produce a municipal compost. This can then be used by the council in its own operations to reduce the cost of buying in or sold to commercial growers, community schemes, gardeners etc. We have an innovative scheme for recycling glass – why not something similar for organic materials (including paper!)?

  • Michael Grant

    • April 24th, 2014 11:53

    Can you all stop battering on about the council not handing out free black bags,There are far more concerning things this council has to get sorted,Firstly what about the 15 million pounds worth of hopeless tugs tied to the pier for the last 2 years which nodody seems to be culpable for,Not enough money for keeping our roads in good condition and hoping that Total is going to help pay them for it.(in the words of our hopeless leader, or the gas wont flow)yeah right massive oil company versus spineless SIC,get in the real world please.Oh yeah nearly forgot,new school,bridges,tunnels,ferries the list go’s on.

  • Neil Anderson

    • April 24th, 2014 17:03

    The black bags they were sending oot were rubbish , they tore in shreads we a tattie peeling , i buy my black bags fae local shops as they are far better quality , i do buy fae tesco sometimes ill admit.

    Its nothing short of a disgrace closing public toilets , especially we da quantity o admin staff sitting in da white hoose next tae mareel , what are they all doing ????

  • Sandy McMillan

    • April 24th, 2014 23:11

    It’s a disgrace that this Council cant supply black bags, prior to now it was £11.00 If you required a extra roll of black bags, which most households did, as one bag per week was not enough, now they can sell them at £3.50, there mark up on sales was pretty high, Shetland Islands Council are I believe the only Authority in Scotland that does not supply BAGS or WHEELIE bins, two Councillors were asked on the radio tonight by a listener why take away the black bags, Answer to save money, Why cant they take away from those that can well afford it and stand all this cut backs and leave the Disabled and Pensioners alone, also get rid of those white elephants at Sella Ness, Cut back on the amount of Councillors per ward If they are that desperate, There are to many hanger on right across the Council.

  • Michael Johnson

    • April 25th, 2014 20:53

    I would like to know how many millions the council has spent over the past few years just talking with consultants about bridges,tunnels,ferries and a new school. None of which have produced any results. Now they decide to save a whole 25k by stopping the black bags! Wonder how much they paid a consultant to work that one out!!

  • Bert Morrison

    • April 26th, 2014 12:45

    Council saves £25K – welcome news. £3.50 for a box of black bags – bargain. Move on.

  • Mark Nichols

    • April 26th, 2014 18:57

    Free bin bags? Black bags are one of the few things we receive for our £1000 plus council tax, they are certainly not free!

  • Jim Leask

    • April 27th, 2014 20:21

    None of which have produced any results Michael? And here was me thinking that there was a new Anderson High School about to be built!

  • David Spence

    • April 28th, 2014 11:44

    To date Michael, around £1.62 million………and not one brick has be laid, in regards to the new school in Lerwick.

    I think the design in not that particularly good in light of the exposure (ok, it may have been more exposed up at the Knab?) and having a flat roof………which in no doubt will have to be completely replaced in less than 10 years.

    I also feel that the design of the school is too small…….and will, probably, require expansion not long after it has opened as a school.

    As the Shetland economy shrinks, I suspect the pressure to force children from the country area’s to use (as was before the oil came) the Lerwick main school for secondary education will become more prevalent, and further expansion will be required……………how this is achieved with the present design and the area the new school is in, is questionable.

  • J Michael Hannah

    • April 28th, 2014 14:29

    Could one of our SIC Councillers please tell how much money it cost to pay certain school staff entitled to double/ treble time to work on the Easter Monday bank holiday so we can compare it to the money saved on bag bags and school closures and the like?

  • James Mackenzie

    • April 29th, 2014 10:20

    Re municipal composting, I don’t know which method the SIC was using, but in Shetland, using ‘windrows’ which are regularly turned to allow aeration, internal temperatures of 60 -70 degrees Celsius can be achieved, enough to kill off pathogens and allow ‘biodegradation’. The external temperature should not really be a critical factor.
    The success may also depend on the ratio of carbon to nitrogen (e.g., woody material to grass), and how the material is stored during maturation.
    There is an excellent guide – ‘Down to Earth Composting – of municipal green wastes’ produced by the Institute of Wastes Management in the 1990s, but sadly it doesn’t appear to be publicly available now.

  • Shuard Manson

    • May 1st, 2014 1:26

    Da lesson is surely-Do SOME? work Save for a PENSION? And try and leave da drinks on weeknights for da weekend!
    If you dinna, mak sure an save enough for an internet connection an a computer.
    Iddirwise wha wid listen!?!?


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