A councillor has urged his own organisation to do more to help small businesses recycle and reduce fly tipping.
Ian Cameron’s call came after Health Food and More tried to get a permit to recycle its rubbish … only to be told to wrap it in plastic!
The independent health food shop, based in St Clair Street, said Fife Council’s systems meant businesses were being forced to use MORE packaging, and the red tape could lead to a rise in fly-tipping, which has become a major issue across town.
Keren Brynes-Maclean, owner, said: “Until now we have just put out our cardboard loose for collection.
“Now the council is asking us to package it up in pink plastic bags, which seems to defeat the purpose.”
She told the local authority she wasn’t keen on the idea and asked for a permit to allow her to take her rubbish to the recycling facility, only to discover there was a freeze on issuing any new applications while a pilot scheme was being monitored.
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She said: “ I was told that I can’t because, at the moment, the council is not taking on any new clients and that it could be four to five weeks before I could get one.
“We have all this fly tipping going on around the area, but we can’t get hold of a permit to be responsible and dispose of it properly – it’s crazy.”
Karen was finally assessed as a new customer and given a permit.
But her experience was flagged up by Councillor Cameron who called for “a change of mindset” within his own council to put business needs first.
“Why did it have to be done through a complaints process?” he asked.
“For a business like Health Food and More, which prides itself on its ethical standards, it must be particularly galling to find that the recycling process for cardboard requires the use of a plastic sack. This also represents an additional cost to the business.”
Cllr Cameron accepted the local authority needed to try new ways of working as it juggled running services with dwindling resources, but he urged officers to put customers first.
“We are strapped for cash and new ways of doing things are being considered and implemented across the board,” he said.
“But services should never be removed when this is being considered.
“A pilot should be run in parallel and in full consultation with the customers that may be impacted by the outcome of any change in service delivery.
“More effort has to be made to wear the hat of the customers and understand the impact on their circumstances however short term.
“Health Food and More is community minded and has complained to achieve an environmentally sound solution to this issue.
“I can’t help but think that not all businesses will be so diligent in trying to resolve this issue.
“An unfortunate and unwanted outcome will undoubtedly be fly tipping. A scourge on us all. What starts off as a one-off can often develop into a routine.”
And he urged his authority to “change the mindset” adding: “Local business needs as much advocacy as resource will allow.
“ The council must be considered in any service change and must anticipate problems.
“This applied to this issue but there are other examples such as the difficulties and cost associated with noise assessments in planning permissions that can often put businesses off from expanding or locating here at all.
“Advocacy for local businesses in such matters is essential.
“I would argue that advocacy must become a priority.
It is the local economy that will pull us out of austerity.
“We must do all we can to enable growth.
David Baker, commercial services officer, said: “Over the last six months we have combined cans, plastics, cardboard and paper into one dry, mixed recyclate collection for businesses. This is helping to reduce the number of bins they need which, in turn, will help keep pavements clearer for pedestrians on our high streets.
“The new service is based on the volume of material the business needs to recycle. Most businesses are still using a bin because bags are not our preference.
“However a small percentage of customers either don’t have space to keep a bin, or don’t create enough waste to need a bin – or even a weekly collection.
“For these businesses we provide commercial and recycling sacks so they can put out waste and recyclable material as and when they need to.
“We will get in touch with this customer to see if we can address her concerns about collections from her premises.
“The cashless payment scheme to use the recycling centres is currently being trialled with existing customers.
“Once we’ve got feedback from this trial and are sure the system works smoothly, we hope to be able to expand the scheme.”