Dr Simon Sneddon, Senior Lecturer in Law writes:
A couple of weeks ago, I was on holiday near the town of Gatehouse of Fleet, in the Scottish county of Dumfries and Galloway. It was lovely, thank you.
We were staying on a farm, in a purpose-built pod (or shed, or unit, we never worked out what to call it), which was self-catering, with views across the hills (above). Having called in to Newcastle-upon-Tyne for a couple of nights on the way, we needed to restock in the Gatehouse Co-op.
Duly replenished, we went back to base, and set about some good relaxing. A bit of cooking, a modicum of wine, all good stuff.
The tricky thing came when working out what to do with the packaging that this produces. The notes that the owners had left made it clear that we didn’t need to separate out landfill and recycling waste, as the local council DID NOT RECYCLE.
This prompted a quick look at the council’s website (http://www.dumgal.gov.uk/householdwaste) as neither of us could believe that such a thing could happen. I’ve lived and stayed all over the country in the last couple of decades, and all did kerbside recycling to some extent.
Dumfries and Galloway not so much. Three of the four districts in the county (Annandale & Eskdale, Nithsdale and Stewartry) do not offer a kerbside recycling service, and the fourth (Wigtownshire) get food waste collected weekly and other recycling fortnightly.
There are thirteen household waste recycling centres in the county area, as well as many recycling points which “can be found in places such as supermarkets or village halls and might be a useful alternative to recycling centres.” (LINK)
The area is the home of the Galloway Forest Park, three National Scenic Areas (Nith estuary, East Stewartry coast and the Fleet Valley) and four RSPB nature reserves, and so this commitment to nature and the environment would seem at odds with the approach to recycling.
In October 2014, the Scottish Daily Record reported that Dumfries and Galloway had the second-worst recycling rate in Scotland, at 23.9 per cent, outperforming only the Shetland Isles. A decade earlier, it had been “the worst recycling authority in Scotland at about 10%.” (Lets Recycle). A “new multi-million pound five-bin recycling scheme” was anticipated by the Council to “help to increase recycling performance by a further 19 per cent when fully implemented” which would be better, but still below the Scottish Government’s target of 50 per cent by 2013.
In September 2017, the BBC reported that the recycling scheme was still planned but that the council had spent £300,000 “renting storage space to store the thousands of unused bins and other recycling equipment.”
It would appear that the plans have still not been rolled out a year later.
So where does all the waste go? My fears that it was all just landfilled were thankfully allayed by the discovery that since 2007, a Shanks’ “Ecodeco” plant has been operating in Dumfries.
“Unsorted waste is delivered to the plant, shredded and has air passed through to dry it out – water represents about 30% of the weight of the material. It then passes through magnets and metals are removed. Final material is either composted or incinerated for energy recovery” (Lets Recycle)
Energy from Waste and composting are further down the Waste Hierarchy than recycling, so this is not the perfect solution by any means, but it is better than landfill.
The Waste Hierarchy (WRAP)
The best approach to waste is to minimise it – this can be done by industry and by us. Plastic waste has obviously been 2018’s high-profile waste type, but we should all try to reduce waste wherever we can. Think before you buy.
What did we do with our recycling? We took it home, and put it into the recycling bin.