CHRISTMAS is coming and this year many people are aware of the positive impact their choices can have, especially by supporting local jobs and businesses for whom 2020 has been a stinker.

Shopping locally means our money works harder. Every pound circulates more within the local area than one spent with a high street chain or online retail giant. There’s also another benefit. It can mean fewer cardboard boxes and plastic packaging overflowing our bins come Boxing Day.

So it was timely that a few weeks ago the council agreed a report on its plans for a circular economy. That’s all about changing how we produce and consume, not just measuring how much. It talks about an economy which is planned around meeting people’s needs, not how much ‘value’ we can add. And it means redefining our relationship with stuff, rejecting the idea of a throwaway culture.

One of the most obvious signs our current system isn’t working is the mountains of rubbish we all produce every year, with far too little being reused or recycled. Glasgow’s household recycling rate is just 24.7%. That makes us by a huge margin the worst performing mainland council in Scotland. The other city authorities - Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee - average around 40%.

We’ve even gone backwards in recent years, since the SNP took over, though in fairness, Labour councillors stood on a ‘one bin to rule them all’ manifesto commitment which would have abandoned separate recycling altogether.

Now the council is consulting on a new recycling and resources strategy for the next ten years. It’s welcome that there’s ambition to do better. It’s hard to imagine doing any worse. However recent developments don’t necessarily inspire hope.

The council is currently making major changes, to three-weekly waste collections, food waste from flats and tenements, and to bulk uplifts. There are sound reasons for some of these changes, but they are being pushed through in the middle of a pandemic, when the workforce is stretched and it’s much harder for people to engage. They’ve also been made without any meaningful consultation either with those affected or with elected members. That’s not good enough.

To improve recycling we need to take people with us, but the way these changes are being implemented still smacks of a ‘council knows best’ mind-set. Once again, talk of community empowerment is shown up to be empty rhetoric.

In part of my own ward, hundreds of closes had their back court bins replaced with on-street points earlier this year, in the first few weeks of lockdown, when councillors were being told it was ‘essential business only’. No matter that people weren’t consulted. No matter if the bins are ugly and it’s a conservation area. No matter that people still have fresh memories of the effort made last year to remove commercial bins from the exact same streets to reduce ‘unnecessary clutter’.

In a circular economy, recycling is the ‘least bad’ thing we can do. The real focus needs to be on repairing, sharing, and making things last. But all of these things will be harder if we carry on doing things to communities, instead of with them. Thinking local should be for life, not just for Christmas.