Bin bunkers would cost £1m

Proposals to pilot huge bin bunkers to serve flats in Craigshill would cost more than £1m.

A report to West Lothian Council instead uses grant funding from the national agency Zero Waste Scotland to develop above ground bin shelters with new communal bins for flatted areas in the county.

Depute group leader Frank Anderson had called for a report into the bin bunker system which is now being introduced in many English cities. A similar type of refuse collection has also been introduced in Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh.

The bunkers – known as Underground Refuse Systems (URS) – are rapidly becoming the norm in cities across Europe. They are large 3000 to 5000 liter capacity communal rubbish bins buried beneath chutes.

They cut the number of refuse collection runs needed, and eliminate the need for wheelie bins.

They also cut down on vermin and other issues associated with above ground storage of waste.

Councilor Anderson became aware of the systems through his connection with the Association for Public service Excellence. According to that organization the use of URS slashes the annual costs of rubbish collection per household from £70 per year to around £30.

Councillor Diane Calder had backed the proposals suggesting it would encourage flat dwellers to help increase the recycling figures for the county. At the moment flatted properties are excluded from the recycling schemes.

Installation costs are the crippling factor in built areas- in the areas where they have worked best it has been new development. The Craigshill pilot, suggested by Councilor Anderson was costed at £1.2m including the purchase of a specific collection vehicle.

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The report added: “Underground refuse systems are a practical way to improve the visual impact of waste on a neighborhood and can encourage positive behaviors in residents when implemented effectively, however the capital costs are prohibitively expensive.

“Any pilot scheme would incur all of the capital costs within the financial year that the pilot takes place, adding to the financial challenges of implementation.”

Councillor Calder expressed disappointment at papers presented to the February meeting of the Environment Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel (PDSP) which highlighted the costs of the pilot, and instead recommended the roll-out of above ground bins stores using £964,000 recently secured from Zero Waste Scotland. This funding grant was awarded specifically for above ground provision. She asked committee chair Councilor Tom Conn to ensure her dissent from her from approval of the papers was noted.

The report to the PDSP said: “Underground bin stores cost on average £33,000 more than above ground provision, per location. If above ground stores were built at 176 locations (ie serving 3000 flats) then the total capital cost would be £5.8 million lower than underground provision, with no additional operating costs.”

Councilor George Paul questioned if the Craigshill pilot project cost for the bin bunker took account of re-routing services if that was needed. It wouldn’t. “So the costs would escalate,” he replied.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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