27 June 2022
Litter Bin Survey, Helensburgh

Below is a copy of a letter that was sent to Kirsty Flanagan, the Executive Director of Argyll & Bute Council on the 12th May, 2022

Over the July/August period in 2021 and in subsequent months, Plastic Free Helensburgh conducted a survey of the litter bins in the town. In the first instance, an inventory of the litter bin distribution and their usage was carried out by a young member of Plastic Free, Cameron Boswell. He conducted 9 surveys in the period. Plastic Free joined forces with the Community Council to bring the findings and subsequent follow-on details to the attention of Argyll & Bute Council.

Survey Details
The survey was conducted principally along the western esplanade of the town and the town centre. In these locations a total of 48 litter bins were checked. In general terms the serviceability of the litter bins was good. However, the serviceability of the permanently installed steel bins was highly questionable. Their principal failings were defective door catches, accumulation of dirt and debris underneath the bin and above all their design (an oval shape) which is incapable of handling any volume of waste. The logic that led to their procurement was clearly at fault.

Litter Bin Survey
The survey identified the concentration points of litter and thus the inadequacies of the system to deal with them. 27% of the total surveyed had a medium to high risk of litter being deposited on the ground. Of more concern, 35% of the total had a high to very high risk of litter overflow. This incidence of continual overflow was directly related to the close proximity of fast-food outlets and their associated packaging which contributed directly to the majority of litter overflow. In Helensburgh, the problem is exacerbated by weather conditions and the attention of seagulls. It is therefore a problem that is in urgent need of attention.

This is a problem that can be alleviated through a combination of more public confidence and an imperative in disposing of litter responsibly. It should be matched by the authorities to provide litter bins of suitable functionality and size to instil the necessary confidence in the community that the litter problem is treated seriously. This demands the procurement of litter bins that are of good design and commensurate size and importantly maintained and cleaned on a regular basis.

The majority of the litter bins surveyed are functional, however there are ‘choke points’ of litter concentration which have to be addressed. They are situated at Kidston Point, the John Logie Baird bust, the Bell Obelisk, and the Pierhead. A further issue is the continued use of dysfunctional steel bins which have no further useful purpose and should be replaced by more functional litter bins. 

A photographic montage is attached at Annex A to show the extent of the litter situation in the various locations and the inadequacy of the litter bins to deal with the volume of litter on a regular basis.

It is quite clear that a lack of thought, imagination and a laissez-faire attitude continues to dominate the approach of Argyll & Bute to the litter issues in Helensburgh. This survey must represent the start of incremental improvement and involved engagement between the town and Argyll & Bute to address the litter problem. The current situation is a hindrance to litter education of the general public and a considerable drawback in encouraging visitors and tourists to come and enjoy the facilities the town.

Replacement Steel Bins
There are unintended consequences in the permanent placement of designer bins which are not fully functional. The stainless steel bins were a nice idea not fully thought throw by those who commissioned their procurement. They are a bad design, suffer from mechanical defects and create their own zone of mess due to an inability to access underneath the bin for cleaning purposes. The weathering some bins suffer from, leads to the question whether they are stainless or not. As a matter of principle all future litter bins must be moveable.

Choke Points 
The choke points that have been identified must be considered a priority for improvement. 

Kidston Point 
The current situation is 1 black plastic standard bin in playpark; 2 x pair of black plastic standard bins in carpark. 
Recommendation - the present setting is replaced with 2 x pair of user-friendly large capacity bins.
John Logie Baird bust
The present situation is 2 x stainless steel bins; 1 black plastic standard bin. Both stainless steel bins are very non-functional. At the time of the survey, one was out of service and the other had a faulty door. They epitomize the bad design of this type of bin and their lack of durability and serviceability.
Recommendation. – removal of steel bins and replaced with suitable moveable bins.
Henry Bell Obelisk
The present situation is 2 x stainless steel bins, 1 black plastic standard bin. One steel bin is non-functional, the other has weather damage and much staining underneath.
Recommendation – removal of steel bins and replaced with suitable moveable bins.
The pierhead includes the top carpark, swimming pool area and public area/toilet area. The present situation has a black plastic bin halfway down the pier; a black plastic bin at the pay meter point, 2 x black plastic bins at the swimming pool 1 black plastic bin at EV charging point, 1 black plastic bin at site of phone boxes, 2 wheely bins in weather shelter near toilets, 1 stainless steel bin, 2 black plastic bins.
Recommendation – The area is in a state of flux at the moment with the construction works underway but much can be done to rationalize the current distribution layout of litter bins and cater for the continuing volume of litter that has to be dealt with. New functional bins are needed as a matter of urgency.

There is a growing emphasis on the environment and public awareness of litter seems on the increase. The recent pilot litter bin scheme introduced by the Friends of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs along the A82 seems to have been a great success and shows what can be achieved by providing suitable, functional bins and an attentive litter collection regime. This was a collaborative project between local community interest and local authority and is a pointer for the future improvement of the litter problem in Helensburgh.

There are two main issues arising from the survey which have to be addressed. They are the removal of specific non-functional steel bins to be replaced with suitable moveable bins. The immobility of bins creates a permanent mess underneath which cannot be accessed for cleaning purposes. The second issue is the solution to the various choke points of litter overflow which occur with regularity. These present a continual seagull nuisance and a bad image for the town.

It is also an observation that the cleanliness and maintenance of litter bins is a psychological imperative in educating members of the public to become more aware and conscious of using litter bins. A clean, functional and attractive appearance of a litter bin is fundamental to its effective use and that requires a maintenance and cleanliness regime by the local authority.

The improvement in litter management can be achieved by both the Argyll & Bute Council and the Helensburgh Community Council meeting on a regular basis to achieve mutual consensus on the resolution of litter problems in the town. It is recommended that this association is established as a matter of urgency.

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