George Sommerville of Stirling Council on “waste re-cycling

Thu 11th May 2017 at 18.00 - 20.30

George Sommerville of Stirling Council spoke on “waste re-cycling"

George with Audrey Cooper


Given the importance to the environment of taking positive steps to deal with our domestic and garden waste, members of the Bridge of Allan and Dunblane Rotary were pleased to hear from George Sommerville about Stirling Council’s approach to this issue.  George is the Council’s Waste Operations Manager, responsible for promoting the Council’s strategy for dealing with operational, legislative and financial matters related to waste disposal.

From the Council’s perspective, these three elements are closely inter-connected. There are legislative requirements under the Environmental Protection Act of 1990 and the Waste (Scotland) Regulations of 2012, which, together with the Household Waste and Recycling Charter, set recycling targets for Scottish local authorities.  Alongside these stipulations, there is financial pressure on local authorities to achieve cost effective waste disposal, in terms of both the efficient collection of the waste and, as possible, the selling on of recyclable materials.  Finally, and by no means the least important, councils seek to provide a waste collection service that meets the expectations of householders. 

In terms of financial savings, the Council was faced with an overall reduction for 2016/17 of £6.9 million, with the waste disposal service required to make a contribution of £500,000.  Starting in February 2016, George and his team set out to look intensively at all aspects of the then current service.  What they concluded was that it was labour intensive, and that the existing fleet of vehicles was proving to be expensive to run and maintain.  With a target of 70 per cent of waste to be recycled by 2025, they explored five possible options.  These ranged from a do-nothing to a radical approach which involved the purchase of new vehicles purpose-designed for the changed needs, and a revised staffing pattern. It was this last approach which, ultimately, gained Council approval, with a reduction of vehicles from 42 to 14, the latter having much greater capacity and expected to be much more reliable.

The new service, which included new bins for mixed plastics and for paper and cardboard, was launched in the autumn of 2016.  Since then, the collection service has proved to be more resilient, to operate at a lower cost, and with lower C02 emissions.  One hundred tons fewer per month are being sent to landfill, and the new bins have reduced the amount of rubbish being blown around in the streets.  Associated with these improvements, there has been a 52% reduction in staff absences.  All in all, progress is well on the way to achieving the necessary targets.  

Illustrating how even small steps in recycling can be effective, George reported that a single aluminium can being recycled can save enough energy to power a television fro three hours.  Examples of recycling other materials provided comparable benefits. 

Thanking George for a fascinating insight into recent developments in waste disposal, Speaker’s Host Audrey Cooper recognised the importance of the service to households, and, ultimately, the environment.  Members reflected her appreciation with applause. 

There will be a meeting on Thursday 25 May in the Westlands Hotel, Doune Road, at 6.00 for 6-30pm. The speaker will be Alba Escola who will give a talk on her experiences in Strasbourg while on the Euroscola programme. Visitors are always very welcome to meetings.  Anyone interested in attending should contact the Club Secretary, Iain Fraser at  Tel: 01786 822751.  More information can be found on the Club website: or the Facebook site: