GLASGOW has to improve how we deal with what we throw away. 

What we put in our bins and how we dispose of our rubbish has social, environmental and economic consequences – for our communities and for our planet. 

We all have a responsibility to stop seeing waste as someone else’s problem.

The way in which Glasgow manages waste has significantly improved in recent years. We’re heading in the right direction but still nowhere near where we need to be. 

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Just over a quarter of what is disposed of is recycled and the majority of what still goes into green bins could be recycled. 

What we throw away as individuals or households can’t be dismissed as having little bearing on the big picture of global warming and climate change. 

A massive 200,000 tonnes of material which could be recycled still finds its way to landfill or other forms of disposal every year.

Glasgow Times:

Not only are there serious environmental consequences but we’re literally throwing away money, money which could help resource some of those things our communities ask of us. With almost 18.9 million household bin collections a year, Glasgow really has to be more effective and efficient in how we manage waste. What’s good for our finances is also good for sustainability.

It’s very important to put this in context. The Climate Emergency is real. 

It threatens to affect us all. Over the next decade we will have to change so much of what we’re used to, from heating our homes to the cars we drive, to the amount of stuff we throw away.

Glasgow isn’t alone in this. Cities across the world have really difficult decisions to make reduce greenhouse gases to avoid disaster for our planet and for our children.

And this isn’t about cuts. The Westminster austerity agenda and the increasing demand on services definitely puts significant pressures on the council’s resources. But even if this weren’t the case, we would still have to act.

Part of the council’s responsibility is to encourage and help facilitate and resource environmental change. We have removed 43,500 old-fashioned steel bins and increased the recycling capacity of 145,000 flatted homes with back courts. We are rolling out better ways for residents who live in flats to recycle food waste.

To reduce the general waste from homes with front and back doors and scale back on the 2.8 million annual ‘kerbside’ collections, we are moving away from the fortnightly cycle. Starting in the East End and parts of the north, green bins are being collected every three weeks, while recycling bins are picked up as before. That brings us in line with most Scottish local authorities and reduces thousands of needless miles of vehicle emissions.

It’s early days with numbers still being examined. But initial analysis and feedback suggest a hugely encouraging response. 

Comparing the last two months of 2020 with the same period the previous year, the amount of general waste collected looks to have dropped by about a fifth, while the levels of blue bin recyclables collected improved by almost a third. That translates as many hundreds of tonnes of unnecessary waste being avoided and disposed of properly. 
Meanwhile, there has been a really significant uptake in new recycling bins, while from tens of thousands of individual household collections the number of complaints is in double figures.

Firstly, this tells me our citizens are rising to the challenge of change. They deserve huge credit for the speed and success in turning around waste and recycling rates. Secondly, the commitment by our staff to make this work has been exemplary. And it seems people in the North East also believe they are doing a great job.

That leads me to question in whose interests and agendas it is to undermine the efforts of our citizens and staff by peddling negativity and misinformation. Predictions that the new cycle would trigger all sorts of environmental turmoil have so far failed to materialise. In fact, the opposite has been the case.

The climate emergency and its impact on Glasgow is too important to continually play party politics with. It’s something I try to avoid and I doubt a single Glasgow politician would argue against the positivity of increased recycling rates. But double standards have to be called out. 

Glasgow Times: GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - OCTOBER 13: a general view of green wheelie bins at Blochairn recycling facility on October 12, 2017 in Glasgow, Scotland.  Glasgow City Council are next week starting a programme of replacing old metal bins in the city with new green

In all its years in power, Glasgow Labour ducked the hard decisions on sustainability.

Only in opposition did it suddenly find a voice on such a critical matter. 

Yet when it comes to making the essential but challenging changes needed to meet our climate targets, they immediately retreat behind nakedly tribal agendas, outdated ways of thinking and vested interests. 

If Labour wants to have any credibility on climate change, then it has to grow up when it comes to cleansing.

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Meanwhile, I struggle to take seriously any notion that the Glasgow Tories are interested in the climate emergency. On this, as on virtually every other issue, their agenda is clear: immature partisan politics with no ideas for change or improvement.

The roll-out of three-weekly kerbside collections is just one step in a long journey ahead and in the coming months Glaswegians will find out about further environmental improvements to come. Addressing waste cannot be for the council alone to deal with.

But we also understand that if we are to ask our citizens to change the way we do things, the council has got to make sure that collection services are effective and reliable. 

There may be some early issues as we roll out the changes city-wide. But the people of Glasgow have already shown us that while change can be tricky, it will be worthwhile and we can really turn around our relationship with what we throw away.