Did West Dunbartonshire break the law by closing Greenlight centres?
The recent chaos when waste recycling centres were shut, and the uplifting of waste was suspended, raises some very serious questions.
Residents were outraged that council recycling centres sat closed and locked whilst huge skips were belatedly placed outside them in an effort to prevent fly tipping.
And many were angered when advised that their carefully separated, and very possibly full blue waste bins, would not be uplifted.
Were West Dunbartonshire Council’s actions legal, and did the Council break environmental law?
The European Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) came into force on 12 December 2010 with the intention of turning EU member states into “recycling societies”.
The Directive aims to shift the focus away from waste being an unwanted burden towards being a valued resource, which can provide opportunities for sustainable growth in a low carbon economy.
This resource centred approach is summarized in the five step waste hierarchy.
Driving waste management up the waste hierarchy is central to the development of sustainable zero waste society in Scotland.
Preventing waste, through reducing consumption, using resources efficiently, designing longevity and regeneration into consumer goods and substituting less harmful and more sustainable alternative raw materials into products, is the best option.
This is followed by re-use of goods such as clothing, books and furniture and repair and re-manufacture of products and machinery.
Closed loop recycling of materials such as paper, glass, metals and plastic is the next preferable option and generally constitutes the priority ‘high quality’ recycling as described above.
If unable to reuse or recycle in a closed loop, then recovering value, either through low quality recycling or in the form of energy is promoted over landfill.
The Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2011 and the Waste Management Licensing (Scotland) Regulations 2011 place a duty on all persons who produce, keep or manage waste, including Local Authorities, to take all reasonable steps to apply the waste hierachy.
It is therefore the duty of the local authority to apply all reasonable steps to deliver a the waste management hierarchy.
No ifs and buts. The legislation is clear, the Council should know it and have a duty to know it.
So why then did the Council shut the recycling centres for nearly two weeks? Why was there a deliberate period of closure before they were reopened? What were the Council trying to avoid keeping the centres shut?
The Council had forewarning of Greenlight’s financial plight when over a month ago Greenlight confirmed that due to their financial plight they were applying for company administration.
In response the council has since confirmed that it was fully involved in supporting plans to help Greenlight trade out and secure a suitor. Indeed the Council leader, Cllr Jonathan McColl, has publicly declared that officials “moved heaven and earth” to deliver that result.
So what happened? Why did all the assistance, including financial assistance come to nought and why did recycling uplift have to be suspended and why were recycling centres closed?
Who will clean up the inevitable fly tipping? How much will it cost to deal with the waste that could have been separated for recycling, but wasn’t?
But importantly, indeed more importantly, has West Dunbartonshire Council broken the law in failing to recycle waste in accordance with legislation?
Someone needs to answer these questions. The Democrat believes public should be told.