Scottish councils warned on recycling

Slow progress is being made by Scottish local authorities towards reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill and increasing the amount they recycle or compost, according to the Accounts Commission - the body responsible for auditing Scottish councils.

The Scottish Executive has set targets for councils collectively to increase the amount of municipal waste that is recycled or composted to 25%, and to reduce landfilling of biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) to 1.5 million tonnes, by 2006.

Individual council targets for the weight of BMW sent to landfill will be set from 2004/05 under the new system of tradable landfill allowances (ENDS Report 348, pp 35-36 ).

The recycling and composting rate rose from 7.4% to just 9.6% in 2002/03, according to the latest "disappointing" figures from Audit Scotland.1 Around a quarter of this amount was accounted for by composted material used by some councils as daily cover at landfills - a use unlikely to qualify as "composting" in England.

Although the proportion of municipal waste sent to landfill fell from 90% to 88%, this was offset by an increase in municipal waste arisings from 3.0 to 3.2 million tonnes. As a result, the amount of landfilled BMW actually rose from 1.674 to 1.746 million tonnes.

Fewer than half (14) of Scotland's 32 councils managed to recycle or compost more than 10% of municipal waste. Five had rates on or below 5% - the lowest being Highland with 3.5%.

The highest - Perth and Kinross, Angus and Dundee - all had recycling/composting rates above 17%. Half of Dundee's was accounted for by the recycling of incinerator ash.

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