How much are wheelie bins costing the people of Orkney?

oicLate on Sunday 6 January I emailed a letter to our excellent local weekly newspaper, The Orcadian, which I hoped might be published on the Postbag page. Since then four editions of The Orcadian have appeared but my letter has not. So I am publishing the letter here.

I would welcome any response from Orkney Islands Council – or, for that matter, from The Orcadian.

The letter…

“We are told by Orkney Islands Council that the alternate weekly refuse collection is going to save money. In The Orcadian of 3 January, a council officer suggests a figure of £90,000 per year.

“But we are never told how much it cost to set up this scheme. May I propose some figures which the council is welcome to correct in a future Postbag?

“There are about 10,000 households in Orkney and each is, in theory, to get three wheelie bins – so that’s 30,000 bins which the council needs to buy. A scan of the internet suggests these cost more than £60 each. The council presumably buys them in bulk so let’s say they got more than 50% off the price, and the bins cost £30 each.

“That comes to a £900,000 investment in bins alone, before any other costs such as re-training, publicity and administration. In all, it’s probably more than a million pounds.

“Is this really the most cost-effective way to increase recycling?”

orcadian_bannerWhy was this letter not published?

It seems to me there are four possible reasons why my letter did not appear in The Orcadian.

First, it did not arrive or was somehow lost in the system at The Orcadian.

Second, some sort of legal problem that prevented publication. I can’t see one.

Third, The Orcadian decided there had been enough comment and coverage of wheelie bins already and it did not have the space. The newspaper states on its Postbag page: “Due to space constraints, many letters have to be left out. Brief letters of debate, and commentary, will always take precedence.” However, I think my letter is a brief letter of debate, and, commentary, which is not true of many letters that have been published in January.

Fourth, I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but perhaps The Orcadian is embarrassed that it has not found out the cost of these bins itself?

For those outside Orkney

The introduction of wheelie bins into Orkney, along with alternate weekly collections – rubbish one week, recycling the next – is the subject of much discussion in Orkney. Orkney Islands Council is making these changes to increase the amount of recycling, which I wholeheartedly support, and, it says, to save money.

It is not just the cost of the bins that is a subject of concern.

Many folk living in the town of Stromness – which has attractive narrow streets, and houses with front doors directly next to the road – are worried about where they will keep their three wheelie bins. If they are left on the street, they will cause an obstruction and look unattractive. And how will those who are less physically able carry full wheelie bins through the house?

People in the country are concerned that the wheelie bins will simply blow away – Orkney is a windy spot – and questions have been asked as to who carries responsibility if one blows onto a road and causes an accident.

To find out more

Orkney Islands Council website:

The Orcadian website:

Update to blog: 6 February 2013

The headline of this blog was changed on 6 February after I heard, indirectly, from The Orcadian that my letter for publication had not been received. It has been re-sent to the newspaper. The new headline also better reflects the content of the blog as my main point is to ask how much Orkney Islands Council has spent on wheelie bins.

Update to blog: 7 February 2013

My letter, re-sent by email yesterday, 6 February, has now been received by The Orcadian and passed to the editor for consideration.

The Orcadian says this latest email was automatically diverted to their spam folder so perhaps this is what happened to my missing first email sent on 6 January.

Also The Orcadian is, rightly, keen for me to make it clear that I did not phone their office to ask if my first email had arrived before writing my blog. I should have called them. This was a regular practice when I worked at the BBC and it was silly of me not to do so.

So remember everyone: (1) keep an eye on spam mail; (2) follow-up important email communications with a phone call.

Update to blog: 14 February 2013

My letter is published in The Orcadian today. Thank you guys.

The newspaper invited Orkney Islands Council to comment, and the council issued a statement which is published in The Orcadian and reproduced here:

“Orkney Islands Council has agreed to fund the Alternate Weekly Waste Collection (AWC) throughout Orkney as a Spend-to-Save project, at a cost of up to £961,000. The roll out of the AWC is currently under way and at present the council anticipates spending considerably less than this.

“It is estimated that a further 800 tonnes of recyclable material will be gathered annually once the AWC is rolled out across Orkney – cutting around £60,000 from the cost of shipping refuse to Shetland for disposal. It will also generate other substantial savings.

“New Zero Waste Regulations will require all local authorities in Scotland to substantially increase recycling levels from this year onwards. Councils will also be expected to provide separate collections for refuses and recyclable materials.

“Wheelie bins cost between £17 and £21 each depending on size.”

Author: Graham Brown

I am Graham Brown, author of this blog, an Englishman living in Orkney since St Magnus Day 2010. I love music + radio. I’m married to musician, singer and songwriter Kathie Touin. I am a member of Harray & Sandwick Community Council and Secretary of Quoyloo Old School (community centre). I volunteer with the RSPB. I was on the committee which restored Orkney’s Kitchener Memorial and created the HMS Hampshire wall. I belong to the Radio Caroline Support Group, Orkney Field Club and Orkney Heritage Society. I spent nearly 24 years at the BBC in London. Remember: One planet, don’t trash it.

6 thoughts on “How much are wheelie bins costing the people of Orkney?”

  1. I’ve never read so much rubbish

    Roy Templeton
    Head of Communications
    BBC Scotland
    Room 2.30
    Pacific Quay
    Tel 0141 422 6315

  2. “Forget it Jake, It’s Chinatown” does sound more romantic and iconic than “Forget it Graham, It’s the North Orkney Islands Council” although the sentiment is the same.

  3. We are getting them in Brum too – some of us have much the same reservations as you about wheelie bins being left outside because of difficulty of carrying them back and forth – at least two and possibly three each. It has been costed. We had a Govt. grant: 30 million for about a million and a bit households I think. 30% of our housing stock is in terraces and another 20% is in flats. Critics say there are other ways of doing this: e.g. food waste recycling boxes could mean food being recycled (better and worse ways of doing this it seems) but black bags could still be used for non-food waste without being torn open. A wheelie bins pilot is just starting today, but we are getting the things anyway. Might be interesting to swap the odd note!

  4. Surely we will have new signs put up at the airport and ferry teminals welcoming tourists to the wheelie bin islands. If the tourist industry is against wind turbines then what do they imagine the tourists are going to think of the masses of wheelie bins. Are the council going to be liable if these bins blow into the roadway and cause a serious road accident. I would imagine that the blame would be laid at the feet of the homeowner. I think they are a terrible idea considering how the winds can blow in Orkney . the council bumf says to shelter them near walls etc. or even consider not putting them out for the duration of windy conditions. if you don’t put them out that means you keep your rubbish for a month, so after that month if there is too much rubbish for the lid to close after a month of storage, then the binmen are instructed not to empty them.

  5. These will be very useful indeed. One for sand, one to keep cement dry, one for new compost. Thank you OIC.

Any thoughts on this blog?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: