Coronavirus: Thousands seek alternative garden waste service

By Angie Brown
BBC Scotland, Edinburgh and East reporter

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image captionCity of Edinburgh Council has stopped its garden waste service

A landscape gardener has been receiving thousands of calls from people asking for their garden waste to be removed after the council stopped its brown bin uplift during the Coronavirus lockdown.

John Steven director of Woodland Maintenance Services in Edinburgh said he had been missing up to 600 calls a day after offering the service in a post on Facebook.

The 32-year-old said he had even received calls from Glasgow, North Berwick and Falkirk.

He has been uplifting brown wheelie bins for £4 and black bin bags for £1 since City of Edinburgh Council stopped its service on Tuesday.

The local authority said it was looking into reimbursing people who had signed up to their annual £25 scheme.

image captionJohn Steven says he is trying to get back to everyone who has been in touch

Mr Steven said he had roped in all his family into the new venture.

He said: "I hate letting anyone down so I'm going to try to reach everyone who has called me.

"I'm doing 15 hour days and have been on the phone for three hours each day in a bid to phone everyone back.

"People don't have a lot of money at the moment so that's why I've made it cheap and don't mind receiving change, that's the idea they can just find the change that's lying around their house."

People then leave their money in envelopes beside their bins.

Mr Steven said he had nine trucks with each one able to hold 3.5 tonnes. They also have a tail lift at the back to empty the wheelie bins.

image copyrightAmanda Barclay
image captionCaledonian Horticulture turns waste into compost

He has collected 1,000 bins from 250 streets since the council suspended its service.

However, he will cover 500 streets in the next two days now that he has worked up a street plan.

Tommy Dale, who owns Forth Resource Management where the council garden waste is processed, said he had been forced to take out a £250,000 loan to make ends meet.

He said: This has been a disaster for us as normally we receive 150 tonnes a day, four days a week of garden waste and suddenly that has stopped. It's a disaster for us.

"Financially its an absolute bloodbath and we are now in survival mode.

"During the winter our tonnage drops down and because the council pays by the tonne we make our money from now and across the summer which then tides us through the winter."

Recycling centres

James Gray, project manager of Caledonian Horticulture which turns the garden waste from the City of Edinburgh Council into compost, said they would run low if the brown bin service was suspended for too long.

He said: "We turn garden waste from the council into compost by putting it through a shredder and then laying it out into piles called wind rows.

"We then spend 18 weeks mixing these piles to get air into them to make top quality recycled compost which gardeners can buy."

He added that the current lull in supply meant there would be a knock on effect later in the year with how much compost he could make.

Adam McVey, City of Edinburgh Council leader, said: "Be assured that as soon as we can we will resume garden collections and reopen the community recycling centres.

"But for now, and we don't yet know how long for, we're asking you to help in our effort to keep residents and our waste staff safe.

"We really appreciate your patience while we're not able to collect garden waste and glass recycling due to the changes we've had to make."