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 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.