Scots consider variable charging, landfill bans

Scotland has promised research into direct variable charging for household waste and annual reviews of the possibility of landfill bans for certain materials.

The developments are included in the household waste prevention action plan issued by the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) in February.1Scotland’s national waste plan aims to stop municipal waste growth by 2010 and reduce arisings thereafter. Currently household waste is growing at 1.5-2% per year and arisings are expected to increase by 270,000 tonnes by 2010 to 3.76 million tonnes.

  • Direct variable charging: The plan repeats the draft’s promise to consult on variable charging before there are "any moves" to introduce it (ENDS Report 373, p 37 ). In the meantime SEPA has commissioned a study looking at enforcement, impact, cost and technologies.

    The 1992 controlled waste regulations that allow charges to be made by local authorities for waste collections will also be reviewed.

    The Executive will also review the role of recycling and waste prevention incentives, following comments from First Minister Jack McConnell that if re-elected a Labour-led government will give local authorities powers to offer council tax discounts to households recycling above a certain level (ENDS Report 385, p 23 ).

    Advice will be given to authorities on the size of residual bins, collection frequency and implications in terms of waste reduction. This could reduce waste by 10,000 tonnes per year by 2009/10.

  • Landfill bans: As in the rest of the UK, certain materials, such as tyres, liquids, certain animal by-products, infectious clinical waste and corrosive or flammable wastes are already banned from landfill. But the plan notes that other countries have more widespread landfill bans, usually for materials that can be recycled, composted or incinerated.

    "Further landfill bans using the powers under the Pollution Prevention and Control Act 1999 should be introduced for clear environmental or health reasons or to help divert further waste away from landfill", says the plan. Annual reports on the scope for bans on new materials will be produced annually, with the first due by the end of this year.

    Before introducing further bans, it would have to be clear there were other ways of dealing with the waste and markets would need to be given time to develop. Any new bans would also have to be enforceable.

    The plan says it "could be argued" there is already scope to ban materials for which there is an existing "strong recycling or composting market: such materials include clear container glass, scrap metals, green waste, paper and card, plastic bottles, untreated wood and textiles". There might also be scope to ban material which can be reused, such as second-hand furniture.

  • Retailers: As part of the Executive’s work with the Waste and Resources Action Programme and targets agreed by retailers under the Courtauld Commitment (ENDS Report 367, p 29 ), the plan aims to reduce food waste from Scottish households by 10,000 tonnes by 2008 and 15,000 tonnes by 2010.

    The plan promises to work with retailers to develop a new food waste campaign, to promote packaging that allows food to be kept for longer and to develop "alternative marketing approaches" to reduce the risk of food being wasted.

    If the Courtauld Commitment fails to deliver, the Executive "will consider further legislative steps".

    Targets have been set to reduce packaging waste by 8,000 tonnes by 2008 and 34,000 tonnes by 2010 by light-weighting, developing reusable packaging and improving guidelines for manufacturers.

    The system for consumers to complain about excess packaging will be "improved" in response to concerns that the current system is unenforceable (ENDS Report 385, pp 22-23 )

  • Consumers: The plan sets targets to increase the amount of household waste diverted by home composting from 8,500 tonnes in 2006/07 to 17,000 tonnes in 2007/08 and 24,000 tonnes in 2009/10. The Executive is considering if an allowance could be made in the landfill allowance scheme to reflect the full impact of home composting.

    Having withdrawn plans for a plastic bag tax (ENDS Report 382, p 53 ), the Executive favours a code of practice on plastic carrier bags similar to one launched recently in England (see p 18 ). The code will be adopted by 2008, reducing waste by an estimated 1,000 tonnes per year.

    Junk mail will be reduced by 10% by 2010. The code of practice adopted by the Direct Marketing Association in England in 2003 will be extended to Scotland. This will cut waste by 4,000 tonnes by 2007/08, 6,000 tonnes by 2008/09 and 8,000 tonnes by 2009/10, the plan says.

    A further 3,000-tonne reduction is expected to be achieved through waste nappy initiatives.

  • Product designers and manufacturers: By December SEPA will publish a report on the potential to introduce producer responsibility initiatives, "for example for disposable products where a reusable alternative exists".

    It will also work with consumer groups and retailers to "provide better information to consumers on the expected lifespan of key products, product guarantees and availability of spare parts."

  • Communities: SEPA will develop a "reuse framework" with the Community Recycling Network and authorities by December setting out actions authorities can take to promote reuse activities. Such measures are expected to reduce waste by 20,000 tonnes per year by 2009/10.