Aberdeenshire residents will be encouraged to become recycling champions with the introduction of a controversial three-weekly collection programme.
The revised waste strategy for all 121,000 properties in the Shire was approved in a 9-5 vote by the council’s Infrastructure Services Committee despite an alternative option from Peterhead SNP councillor Stephen Smith who said it was “too much, too soon”.
From April next year, households will have weekly kerbside collections for one of three bins including a 240 litre bin for paper and card and 240 litre bin for metals, plastics and cartons.
However under the new scheme, the existing general residual bin for non-recyclable waste will be significantly reduced to a 180 litre capacity.
Councillors were told by waste director Philip McKay that while it was a considerable reduction, the service felt it “should be manageable for most households”.
He added that while a three-weekly non-recyclable waste collection might feel a bit daunting to residents initially – as did the move from weekly to fortnightly collections in Aberdeenshire a few years ago – experience from other Scottish local authorities showed that it is workable and can lead to a significant increase in recycling rates.
Mr McKay also stressed that given the larger recycling capacity provided in the favoured option, it provided “more flexibility in the future” for the addition of other recyclable materials without the need for additional recycling containers.
Councillors were told that the scheme had the potential to save waste services £565,000 per year at the lower end of the scale and even more if there was a higher uptake in recycling.
However, Peterhead councillor Stephen Smith said the proposals as they stood were a step too far for North-east communities.
In a bid to address concerns about the potential impact of any necessary changes to the waste strategy, he proposed that instead of using a 180-litre bin for three weekly collections, Aberdeenshire Council instead do what has happened in much of the rest of Scotland and keep the 240 litre bin for three weekly waste collections, with new 180 litre bins – which are expected to be funded in large part by ‘Zero Waste Scotland’ – being used for paper and card recycling for a transitional period.
Councillor Smith’s proposal – which he claimed would have saved an estimated £315,000 annually – followed confirmation from council officers that such a proposal would be compatible with Zero Waste Scotland’s requirements for helping to fund the cost of the new bins required.
But council depute leader Peter Argyle warned against “changing horses” halfway through the programme as it would only lead to confusion.
He told the committee that with an imminent landfill ban on biodegradable waste “coming down the tracks” by 2021, it was “unacceptable if we don’t recycle” and questioned how people would be encouraged to recycle more if they continued to have the larger residual waste bin.
He also stressed that Aberdeenshire Council waste teams would continue to visit every house in the region every week.
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