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An Accounts Commission report published today says that while the percentage of waste that was recycled and compost...
An Accounts Commission report published today says that while the percentage of waste that was recycled and composted in 2003/04 rose to just over 12%, there is still a long way to go to meet the Scottish Executive target of 25% by 2006.

Councils also have much to do to meet the target to reduce the amount of biodegradable waste going to landfill to 1.5 million tonnes by 2006. The figure rose again slightly last year to 1.8 million tonnes. The level of waste collected by Scottish councils is increasing.

The report also provides performance information on a range of other council services including food hygiene inspections, planning applications, road and traffic light repairs and noise complaints.

Accounts Commission chairman Alastair MacNish says:

'Councils provide a range of important services that impact on our environment and none more directly than waste management. It is good see the investment in recycling schemes beginning to show dividends. However, there is evidence that as a nation we are generating more waste and this poses a real challenge for councils in the coming years.'

The main findings of today's report are as follows:

- Councils collected 3.3 m tones of waste in 2003-04, 3% more than the previous year.

- Of this they recycled and composted 12.3%, an increase of 2.7% compared with the previous year. The target for councils is to recycle 25% by 2006.

- Councils sent 1.8 million tones of biodegradable waste to landfill. The target is to reduce this figure to 1.5 million tones by 2006 but the 2003-04 figure reflects a small increase from 1.78 million tones on the previous year.

- Across Scotland, the average gross cost of refuse collection per property was£52.59, a 4% increase on the previous year. The cost of refuse disposal was£58.43 per property, an increase of 6% which reflects increasing investment in waste management and re-cycling schemes.

- Over 9 4% of food hygiene inspections within the higher risk properties were carried out within the target times, a similar percentage to previous years. Twenty-five of the 32 councils carried out at least nine in every ten inspections within the target time.

- Councils received slightly over 10,300 noise complaints. They dealt with 2,300 at first point of contact to the satisfaction of the complainer. 8,000 required further investigation. Overall, 65% of complaints were settled within 14 days

* In 2003/04, 64% of all planning applications were determined within two months, a 3% reduction on the previous year. Clackmannanshire was the only council to meet the Scottish Executive's target of 80%

- Across Scotland, around 45% of the road network is either in need of repair or requiring further investigation. The proportion varied widely between councils from 23% in West Lothian to 62% in Edinburgh. Councils reported that they carried out 94% of repairs to faulty street lights within seven days, a 3% increasecompared with the previous year.93% of repairs to traffic lights were carried out within 48 hours, which continues the year-on-year improvement over the past six years.

Mr MacNish continues:

'The commission monitored a range of council services for the period 2003/04, including roads maintenance, environmental health and planning and found mixed progress to have been made across the board. We will continue to look for improvement in future years, particularly with regard to planning services where there was some slippage in the proportion of applications dealt with within the target time'.

Press release from the Scottish Executive follows.

Waste recycling on the increase

New figures published today by the Accounts Commission show that in 2003/04 Scotland recycled or composted 12.3 per cent of its municipal waste.

Compared to the previous year's figure of 9.6 per cent this represents an increase by Scotland's local authoriti es of over 28 per cent.

Environment minister Ross Finnie said:

'The Scottish Executive is committed to transforming the country's record on waste reduction, recycling, composting and recovery.

'Already, through multi-million pounds funding received from our Strategic Waste Fund, local authorities are working to meet our recycling and composting target of 25 per cent by 2006. We are providing the infrastructure to enable everyone to play their part.

'We have made a good start. However, as the report acknowledges, we still have more to do to meet our target. That is why we will continue to work closely with local authorities.

'Every month, recycling becomes easier for Scots with new and improved kerbside facilities, recycling bins and other services being provided across the country. It is up to all of us to increase our efforts and make better use of these facilities'

The minister also commented on the report's finding that local authorities collected 3 per cent more waste in 2003/04 than in 2002/03.

He said:

'Although very important, recycling is only part of the story. As this report shows, the amount of waste we are producing has increased.

'We need to do more to prevent waste arising in the first place. We are working with SEPA and the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) amongst others to minimise the amount of waste that goes to landfill. WRAP are working with retailers to have an impact on the waste that ends up in a householder's bin.

'Combined with our funding for recycling, the Executive is working to lessen the impact that all of us have on our environment.'

The Executive has set an overall target for Scotland to recycle or compost 25 per cent of municipal waste by 2006 and to reduce the amount of biodegradable municipal waste sent to landfill to 1.5 million tonnes in 2006.

Through the Strategic Waste Fund all authorities have now been awarded funding totalling around£321m to 2007/08 and a total of£986 m to 2020.

To monitor progress with local authority recycling, and diverting biodegradable municipal waste from landfill, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency has established a system of quarterly returns from local authorities, showing recycling rates.

These figures are still provisional and are being validated by SEPA.

Quarterly returns are subject to significant seasonal variations (eg there is more composting of garden waste in the summer months and there is often an increase in the amount of waste produced after Christmas).

The quarterly return for April to June 2004 showed a recycling/composting rate of 16.1 per cent. The quarterly return for July to September 2004 showed a recycling/composting rate of 17.6 per cent.

The SEPA quarterly returns do not include industrial waste collected by local authorities and End of Life Vehicles.

The Scottish Waste Awareness Group (SWAG) has designed the Waste Aware Scotland campaign. This provides information on recycling facilities as these are improved by local authorities following a Strategic Waste Fund award.

The report is available here.

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