In 2017 Changeworks was awarded funding from Zero Waste Scotland and the European Regional Development Fund to create Zero Waste Leith, a community-led project to inspire waste-free habits. Making recycling easier was a key priority for residents, with 69% saying more information about what to recycle would be useful. Up to 49% of bins we surveyed contained contamination.

Raising awareness

We created a series of posters for Leith and Edinburgh residents (see below) about what goes in each bin, where materials get recycled and what to do with unwanted items. With the help of our volunteers and support from the City of Edinburgh Council we put these up in stairwells and gave them out at pop-up street stalls. We also created a storage bag (made of recycled plastic bottles) to give out to residents as more than 90% of Leithers live in a flat and said storage space was an issue.

Three months later, 55% of people who saw our posters said they were helping them do more recycling. Of those who received a bag, 11% used it to start recycling for the first time and 53% are now doing more recycling as a result.

Measurable improvements

The quality of recycling in the bins on the streets we engaged with improved by 10% in 2020, whilst contamination on other streets surveyed increased by 200%. The City of Edinburgh Council increased the number of recycling bins on our engaged streets by 39% in 2020 which likely contributed to the improvement in recycling quality.

Councillor Lesley Macinnes, Transport and Environment Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council said:

“We want to make it as easy as possible to recycle – as this project demonstrates, clearer guidance and more accessible facilities lead to more recycling, which is essential for a more sustainable future. We’re already rolling out an improved communal bin services for residents in flats, which will really help people to recycle their waste, in turn benefiting the environment.”

Our recycling bag was particularly popular with Leithers, who said:

Easier to store and transport recycling downstairs from top floor flat”

“Surely it made a difference. I now segregate all the waste I have and can dispose them accurately to the new recycling bins that have been provided in my area not long ago.”

Download and print our posters for your stairwell:


While the Zero Waste Leith project comes to an end in July 2020, some aspects of the campaign remain active. You can find out where to reuse, repair or recycle your stuff using our Edinburgh Reuse Map, network with other Leith businesses looking to improve their environmental impact with our Business Charter, and access expert advice on doing what we can locally to support our fragile environment at Zero Waste Leith Facebook page.

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