Scotland consults on ‘zero-waste’ measures

The Scottish Government has outlined bold proposals to help meet its ambition for a "zero-waste Scotland". If implemented, it would represent the strongest regulation on municipal waste in the UK.

Mandatory packaging reduction targets, a requirement for businesses and public authorities to set waste prevention plans and proposals to force firms in Scotland to make annual data returns on waste arisings are among the ambitious legislative proposals outlined by the Scottish Government in a consultation paper in July.1 The deadline for responses is 3 October 2008.

The consultation paper provides the first taste of how the Scottish National Party, now in government, will deliver on its manifesto promise to "aspire to achieve a zero-waste Scotland".

Earlier this year, Rural Affairs and Environment Minister Richard Lockhead outlined goals on municipal waste including targets to recycle 70% of municipal waste by 2025, restrict waste burned for energy to 25% and cut landfill to 5% (ENDS Report 397, p 44 ). But his statement fell short of outlining how the government would achieve these challenging targets or define "zero waste".

Seven proposals for primary legislation have been outlined for inclusion in the Scottish Climate Change Bill. Additional secondary legislation would have to go through the Scottish Parliament before the measures take effect.

  • Packaging: Powers have been proposed to enable the Scottish Government to set statutory targets on packaging reductions. Non-compliance would be subject to potential penalties or civil sanctions. The targets would be enforced with by local authorities or the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).
  • Waste prevention plans: Scottish ministers would have powers to draft regulations requiring public authorities and businesses to draw up waste prevention plans. Public bodies would be audited by Audit Scotland, but the Scottish Government expects local authorities to take the lead on enforcement for other bodies.
  • Deposit and return: The consultation sets out plans to introduce a statutory deposit and return system for drink containers made from glass, metal or plastic. It might be extended to cover packaging such as food tins and aluminium trays from take-away food.

    It cites experience in Denmark where the recycling rate for drinks containers is 85% and the return rate for specially designed refillable containers is almost 100%. In Scotland the recycling rate for drinks containers is 35%.

    The level of the deposits, requirements on retailers and enforcement provisions have yet to be detailed. Costs have been estimated to be around £17 million a year.

    If powers to make these regulations are enacted in the Scottish Climate Change Bill, the Scottish Government says a working group would be established before any regulations are drafted.

  • Mandatory waste data returns from business: The Scottish Government is considering whether to make waste data returns from firms mandatory. As the proposals stand, firms "perhaps with a turnover above a fixed amount" would be required to outline the amount of waste they produce each year to SEPA. This data is now collated through regulatory returns by waste handlers and voluntary surveys. The Scottish Government estimates costs to business to be around £5.3 million a year.
  • Recycling away from home: New powers have been outlined to allow the Scottish Minister to initiate regulations compelling firms and councils to provide recycling facilities for staff, customers and the public. As well as providing facilities for staff at work, the proposals envisage recycling facilities at shopping centres, beaches, parks, sports grounds and other public areas.
  • Specifying recyclate: To encourage markets for products with recycled content, new powers would allow the Scottish Government to place a duty on firms and public bodies to specify a minimum percentage of recyclate in contracts. Currently there are only voluntary requirements for public bodies to specify recyclate in contracts relating to paper and construction.
  • Additional actions on waste prevention: The Scottish Government appears to oppose legislating against carrier bags to minimise use that it believes "can be achieved through voluntary measures." Along with Scottish retailers, it has recently formed a "Zero Waste Retailers Group" to consider options. However, it is considering an enabling power in the Scottish Climate Change Bill "if voluntary measures should not succeed."
  • The consultation paper keeps open the option of a ban on certain readily recyclable materials going to landfill, using existing powers under the Pollution, Prevention and Control Act.

    The idea was suggested initially in a "household waste prevention action plan" in March 2007. It said it "could be argued" that there is scope to ban materials that possess strong markets such as "clear container glass, scrap metals, green waste, paper and card, plastic bottles, untreated wood and textiles". There might also be scope to ban landfilling of material that can be reused, such as second-hand furniture (ENDS Report 386, pp 43-44 ).

    However, the proposal had not been discussed publicly until now. If the Scottish Government does back the idea, it will feature in the forthcoming review of the National Waste Plan for Scotland. This will be subject to a separate consultation.

    Compliance Search

    Discover all ENDS content in one place, including legislation summaries to keep up to date with compliance deadlines

    Compliance Deadlines

    Plan ahead with our Calendar feature highlighting upcoming compliance deadlines

    News from ENDS Europe

    News from ENDS Waste & Bioenergy