Traders react to Fife Council’s ‘insane’ recycling charges

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Fife’s “insane” new recycling charges could have been avoided if Fife Council had sorted out its mess properly.

That’s according to traders who reacted to one gardener’s claim his bills would rise from £500 to a whopping £16,000 under the new scheme.

Resource Efficient Solutions (RES), which operates recycling centres for Fife Council, will scrap £500 annual permits in favour of a pay-per-load scheme from October 3.

The company claims the service is running at a £500,000 loss per year because a review of commercial operators “strongly suggested” ticket fees did not cover disposal costs and there was “anecdotal evidence that unscrupulous commercial operators” were disposing of waste free of charge by posing as householders.

Kirkcaldy man Kenneth Lonie (58), who runs a local recycling and uplift business told the Press rogue traders were an issue – but not the only issue.

He said: “It does happen, I see it every day myself.

“But there should be ways to get around it – there should be some kind of barrier system.

“There was no consultation with businesses, no consultation with their own employees.

“It was number crunching, nothing more.”

He continued: “They say a pay-per-load but they don’t discriminate – how much is a load? One tonne, a quarter tonne?

“I asked them what they would charge for a mixed load and they said ‘I don’t know’.

“Does that mean I have to pay for each type of waste in a lorry? £200 a load? That’s not going to happen!”

“Besides, everything goes to landfill.”

That assessment was echoed by a Levenmouth trader who wished to remain anonymous.

He said: “I know a double glazing company which was told to throw plastic windows on the landfill skip – windows which will never rot.

“This is what goes on in Fife; the Council simply don’t recycle properly and that’s why it’s so expensive.

“I once took along a wood and glass door and queried why it couldn’t be recycled.

“I was told by a staff member they didn’t have the manpower to deal with it so I got a hammer, took the glass out and did it myself in five minutes to make a point.

“He stood there and looked at me as if I was stupid.”

Across Scotland, all authorities incur a fee of £84 per tonne for waste which goes to landfill - a cost which RES claims outweighs payment contributions from businesses.

Yet accounts from last year show RES had a £7million turnover with a loss of just £1000.

According to ZeroWasteScotland all businesses, including RES, have a legal responsibility to dispose of waste correctly, including taking all reasonable steps to separate key materials for recycling.

Currently Fife’s rate of recycling stands at 55 per cent but the region still puts around 100,000 tonnes per year to landfill at a cost of £8.4 million.

“Employees should be directing site users to use the most appropriate containers for waste that is delivered to site,” a Fife Council spokesman stated.

The sheer volume of waste dumped in Fife’s recycling centres has certainly created problems for residents and under the new rules businesses will be resticted to using St Andrews, Thornton and Dunfermline.

A Kirkcaldy man said he was “astonished” to find the gates to Smeaton’s recycling centre closed one Tuesday afternoon recently “apparently because the skips were full”.

He said: “Although the closing time posted at the entrance states 5.45pm there did not appear to be any member of staff present to apologise for this surprising state of affairs, only a hand-written notice to advise people to go to Lochgelly, Glenrothes or Methil.”

Meanwhile businesses fear they could fold if they tried to pass charges onto customers.

Alex Anderson, a landscape gardener in Anstruther, said: “It’s insanity, this will ruin businesses.”

He also claimed unscrupulous traders would resort to fly-tipping to survive.

Mr Lonie agreed, saying he came off the dole 10 years ago to start his business and feared being on the dole again.

“Fife Council is in absolute denial about fly-tipping,” he added.

“One council worker told me there wasn’t a problem.

“I told them they needed to get out of the office and drive through the town then.”

Fife Council told the Press it had talked to other councils which implemented changes in relation to the use of recycling centres by commercial operators and there has been no significant increase in fly tipping as a result.

“However, we are in close contact with SEPA and the council’s enforcement officers who respond to complaints of fly tipping and take action against those responsible,” a spokesman said.

In response to complaints that businesses were not consulted, he added: “RES has kept our customers advised that a review was being undertaken and has informed them of the outcome.

“We have also informed customers of the reasons for the review; namely that the full costs of dealing with business waste is not being recovered and is being subsidised by council tax payers.”