Talking bins targeted by vandals in series of fire attacks

'Smart' bins in West Lothian have become the target of youngsters torching the technology.

West Lothian talking bins targeted by vandals in series of fire attacks LDRS

Talking bins have become a target for vandals in West Lothian – with up to six burnt out at a cost of £24,000.

The smart bins – which say “thank you” for using them – cost £4,000 apiece, but are expected to save the council money in the long term.

The bins have a solar-powered compacting device which crushes waste, enabling it to hold more than a conventional street bin.

While vandalism of wheelie bins is a common problem, officials said it was “frustrating” that the smart bins were now being targeted.

Andy Johnston, roads operations manager told West Lothian Council’s Performance Committee: “Vandalism has been a huge frustration. We’ve put 73 bins in and to date we’ve had about five or six of them burnt out to the point where they’ve not been replaced.”

The purchase price of the bins includes a five-year warranty, servicing and maintenance and the relevant reporting software licence.

Councillor Maria MacAulay asked what the financial impact of the vandalised bins was.

“We have got insurance in place, so it’s more of a frustration rather than a cost,” Mr Johnston said.

“We have relocated bins, but I don’t know if it’s the talking aspect or the fact that it’s something new, but they’re targeting these bins as opposed to normal litter bins that were there in the past.”

Mr Johnston said: “If you’re using them in remote locations you only need to travel to empty the bin as and when the bin prompts you and is at a point that it needs to be emptied. It’s significantly reduced the amount of wasted journeys that we have had.”

The most obvious improvements have been seen around Linlithgow Loch. There are fewer bins than in the past but they are better used. The bins are also sealed so birds and animals cannot scatter litter through raiding the bins

Mr Johnston told the meeting: “For multiple reasons they have been a benefit around Linlithgow Loch in particular but other locations as well, because we’ve got the compactor in it, the bins have got ten times the capacity they previously had.

“So where we had overflowing bins at the weekend, where the tourists came in at the weekend for the lochside, we no longer have that, and we have reduced 21 bins to eight bins.

Asked by councillor MacAulay what difference the compactor bins had made to recycling rates, Mr Johnson said that there had been little change. The main purpose of the talking bins was to encourage behavioural change and get people to dispose of their litter sensibly. 

“The benefit is that it has reduced the amount of time we’re spending actually emptying the bins, but in terms of recycling it doesn’t really help,” he said.

“In terms of recycling targets, they don’t contribute because no litter is segregated at source. We have tried recycling bins in the past and asked the public to separate their waste and put out different containers for different types of waste.

“The challenge that we, and all local authorities, face is getting people to change their behaviour and put their litter in the bins in the first instance. Asking them to segregate it is a step too far.”

A spokesperson for the council said: “After an initial investment the SMART bins are set to deliver an estimated saving of £24,000 per year due to the improved efficiency of the collection schedule.

They added: “Some bins have been targeted in reckless acts of vandalism. We do not condone this behaviour and would urge anyone who witnesses such damage to report this to the relevant authorities.”

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