Being a port city Edinburgh has a thriving inland gull population. Gulls, and other urban foragers such as dogs, cats, foxes, and crows, often tear through thin rubbish bag-liners left for collection on city pavements in search of food scraps. Not only does food end up on the pavement but, with Edinburgh being a windy city, the rubbish is easily dispersed throughout the surrounding street.
In the mid-1990s Edinburgh City Council started introducing wheelie bins in the city, but only parts of Edinburgh's World Heritage site (New Town and Old Town) started using them after conservation groups and residents objected vociferously to the wheelie bins being an eye-sore and damaging to the image of the UNESCO World Heritage site.
Now Edinburgh City Council is introducing a variety of trials in a bid to "modernise" its waste collection.
"Gull proof" bags, extension of evening collections, communal containers, food waste collection and individual smaller bins are being trialled next week at different addresses. The trials will run for six to eight months.
Marion Williams, Director of the Cockburn Association, who originally opposed the wheelie bin trials in the New Town, suggested that we need to look not just at the practicalities of waste collection, but also waste generation.
"We all need to engage in sustainable practices and reduce the negative environmental impact of our activities in order to ensure continued enjoyment of this special environment. Focus should be on reducing the amount of waste produced, the reuse of consumables where possible, and the recycling of materials where appropriate," said Williams.
The Council hopes the trials will also demonstrate an increase in recycling.
Around 300 residents on Manor Place and Great King Street will receive gull proof bags.
There will also be an extension of evening collections for around 20,000 households in the Old Town, New Town and parts of Leith, with a range of collection methods being trialed.
More people are due to receive evening collections as the service area will be much larger and run over seven nights.
Studies into existing evening collections have shown a significant reduction in the amount of split refuse sacks, there is also a reduction in seagull and vermin attacks on waste awaiting collection. This results in streets staying cleaner for longer.
Individual smaller containers will be trailed in Cumberland Street with over 200 residents.
Audrey Cavaye, New Town and Broughton Community Council, said: “Reviews and discussions have been held over a number of months to get feedback and views on differing solutions and the trials about to be undertaken are a culmination of that work. I congratulate the Council for the work they have done and the focus they have given this problem, although if residents in the area took a bit more care about when bags were left for collection, a great deal of this would not be required.”
A food-recycling pilot was recently launched in 20,000 households across Edinburgh, which includes 3,500 residents in parts of the World Heritage Site.
Communal bins are also due to be piloted during May with further details to be announced soon.
Councillor Robert Aldridge, Environmental Leader, said: “The aim of this project is to find local solutions to local issues. These trials are all about improving the cleanliness and appearance of the city centre as well as increasing the options available for waste collection. Our aim is to deliver a 21st Century waste service for local residents with less litter and increased recycling and I am looking forward to hearing how these trials go."