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Preventing Household Waste in Scotland: A Consultation Paper: January 2006, Paper 2006/1


6 Local Authorities

"Local authorities are well placed to take a lead on waste prevention and are key in engaging local communities to take part in waste prevention activities." Women's Environmental Network.


6.1 As the bodies with the statutory responsibility for the collection and disposal of household waste, local authorities have a key role to play in relation to waste prevention. Waste prevention also helps authorities reduce costs and helps them meet their obligations under the Landfill Allowance Scheme to minimise the amount of biodegradable municipal waste sent to landfill.

Size of bins and frequency of collections

6.2 Under section 45 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, local authorities are under a duty to collect household waste (with the exception of household waste in remote areas where the cost of collection would be unreasonably high and the authority is satisfied that the controller of the waste has or can make adequate arrangements for its disposal). The frequency of collection is at the discretion of local authorities. Under section 46 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, local authorities may require householders "to place the waste for collection in receptacles of a kind and number specified". A person who fails, without reasonable excuse, to comply with the requirements of section 46 is liable on summary conviction to a fine.

6.3 The London Borough of Barnet has taken the view that these powers are sufficient to make recycling compulsory. Other authorities have used the powers to limit the amount of waste they will collect, to encourage recycling.

Question 29: Do consultees consider that there would be merit in a similar approach to Barnet's (making use of certain receptacles mandatory, to encourage recycling) being adopted by local authorities in Scotland? Clearly, before authorities in Scotland took any action of this type, they would need to be satisfied about the scope of the existing legislative powers in Scotland.

6.4 The larger the receptacle provided to householders, and the greater the frequency of collection, the more waste will be produced. The converse is also true - restricting the size of wheelie bin, or moving to a fortnightly collection will decrease the amount of residual waste collected (provided a good recycling system is in place). 9 However, moves to introduce smaller bins and reduce the frequency of residual collections are not always popular, even when kerbside schemes to collect recyclate are in place.

Question 30: Should the Scottish Executive consider action in relation to the size of bins for residual waste provided by local authorities and/or the frequency of collection by local authorities? Is so, what action should be taken? Potential options include:

  • Primary legislation on bin sizes and frequency of collection. However, this would take a number of years to be enacted. It also might mean a high degree of central control on an issue where there are bound to be local variations ( e.g. type of housing stock; nature of recycling services provided).
  • Advice on size of residual bins and frequency of collections It might be possible to provide such advice during the work on best practice in recycling which the Executive plans to carry out with authorities over the next year.
  • Making funding streams, such as the Strategic Waste Fund and Grant Aided Expenditure for refuse services, relate directly to size of bins and frequency of collections.

Introduction of Green Waste Collections

6.5 Over the last couple of years many local authorities have introduced green waste collections for garden waste. This helps to increase recycling-composting rates. In addition, green waste can be composted centrally to produce high-grade compost, meeting a standard known as PAS 100. (More information on PAS 100 compost can be found at http://www.wrap.org.uk/materials/organics/producing_selling/bsi_pas_100_faqs.html ). There is a good market for compost meeting the PAS 100 standard. However, increasing green waste collections can also have the effect of increasing the total amount of waste collected, by around 140-160kg / household per year. There are issues about the design of green waste collections, for example not offering a collection in areas with large gardens where the material could be dealt with at home.

Question 31: Do you think that further research and guidance is required on green waste composting to minimise the effect on waste arisings? As indicated below, local authorities are already empowered to charge for the uplift of garden waste.


6.6 Under section 45 of the 1990 Act, local authorities are not allowed to charge for the collection of household waste, except in cases prescribed in regulations. Regulation 4 and Schedule 2 to the Controlled Waste Regulations 1992 specify types of household waste for which a charge for collection may be made. A full list is at Annex A to this paper. In particular, local authorities may make a charge for special uplifts of bulky material and uplifts of garden waste. (The current legislation would not allow all household waste to be subjected to a charging regime. As discussed in paragraphs 6.8 to 6.10 below, that would require primary legislation).

6.7 Local authority practice in this area varies: some charge and some do not. Charges vary across authorities when they are in place. The argument for charging is that householders make a direct financial contribution to the service, have a greater appreciation that collection and disposal of waste have a cost and provide an incentive for them to consider alternatives, such as re-use. The arguments against charging are the administrative costs, the burdens on poorer householders and the increased risk of flytipping.

Question 32: Should the Scottish Executive consider amending the existing regulations allowing charges to be made for the collection of other types of household waste. If so, what changes should be made, and why?

Question 33: Should the Scottish Executive consider issuing guidance on charging for special uplifts of bulky items and garden waste? If yes, what should the guidance say?

6.8 A further issue is "pay as you throw" schemes (or "direct variable charging"). Under these schemes, householders with kerbside collections of recyclate would be charged directly for the uplift of residual waste, with these charges varying depending on the amount of waste in the residual bin.

6.9 The arguments for "direct variable charging" are that it drives waste prevention and recycling and introduces a direct link for the householder between waste collection and disposal and costs. A study in 2002 by the Reason Foundation, in the United States, suggested that "pay as you throw" programmes in the United States reduced the disposal of waste by around 17% by weight. This figure consisted of around 8% - 11% going to recycling and composting and around 6% of waste actually prevented. http://www.rppi.org/ps295.pdf

6.10 The arguments against "direct variable charging" are that it could impact most on poorer people (rebates may need to be given for people on lower incomes); it could have a high administrative cost; householders are happy to recycle anyway so long as it is made easy and the correct information is given; and it could lead to increased flytipping. No moves in relation to the potential introduction of direct variable charging would take place without further full and detailed consultation. Primary legislation would be required and any moves would take a number of years to implement.

Question 34: Do consultees consider that it would be helpful to consider further the issues about "direct variable charging"? The next step would be to issue a full consultation paper on this subject, outlining the arguments for and against and the financial implications.


6.11 Another option to encourage waste prevention and recycling is to offer incentives ( e.g. a financial reward; vouchers for goods/services; kudos of being recognised as a low waste household). Incentives can either be focused at a household or community level. The incentives provided to the householders are likely to be small but should still be provided regularly ( e.g. every three to six months) to ensure there is continued positive reinforcement of the waste reduction message. For incentives to work there need to be good data systems in place in order to determine whether the reward is justified.

6.12 In England, Local Authorities have bid to run pilot projects that provide positive incentives to prevent, recycle or compost waste: http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/waste/localauth/encourage.htm In Norway, a "recycling lottery" increased the number of people who recycled drink cartons from 30 per cent to 70 per cent. Participants squashed the carton, wrote their name and phone number on it and dropped it into the recycling bin to go forward for the prize draw. In Tayside, the local authorities and the Scottish Waste Awareness Group are planning an incentive scheme to promote the use of recycling centres. Under this scheme, a small number of "golden" vouchers would be distributed, at random, to users of the centres, with the "winners" receiving a small prize.

6.13 The argument against incentives run by local authorities is that they can be time-consuming for relatively little gain. As indicated above, most householders are happy to recycle anyway.

Question 35: Do consultees consider the Scottish Executive should carry out further work on incentives? If so, what? One option would be trials of incentives with a number of authorities.

Waste contracts

6.14 Waste Prevention has an important role in meeting the landfill diversion targets. One key issue is to ensure that waste collection and disposal contracts/Service Level Agreements do not encourage the generation of waste.

Question 36: Do consultees consider that waste management contracts/service level agreements should include incentives for waste prevention? If yes, how is this best achieved? Do consultees consider that waste management contracts/service level agreements can currently include perverse incentives to increase the generation of waste? If yes, what can be done to tackle this?

Other contracts

6.15 Local authorities have considerable purchasing power. The Scottish Executive has recognised that procurement policies can have a major impact on stimulating the demand for products that generate less waste and are environmentally sustainable generally. This is why, for example, the Executive has issued a consultation paper, on possible targets for public bodies specifying recyclate when letting contracts: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2005/07/27153127/31293 There is scope for local authorities to promote waste prevention when letting contracts. The European Commission have issued a handbook on Environmental Public Procurement, called "Buying Green!" http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/gpp/pdf/gpphandbook.pdf which indicates that public authorities can take full account of environmental considerations when letting contracts, so long as this is made clear at the outset.

6.16 "Buying Green!" is also available, along with other information and advice about sustainable procurement, from the Scottish Executive's Procurement Directorate site at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Government/SPD/17839/16689

Question 37: Do you consider that contracts (other than waste management) let by local authorities have scope for provisions on waste prevention? If so, which ones? There is clear scope to minimise waste in construction, although this may not impact on household waste. The best time to make adjustments to contracts may be when they are due to be renewed/re-let.

Systematic approach to waste prevention

6.17 Local authorities' (understandable) focus in recent years has been the provision of new recycling services and facilities. However, there are a number of drivers which should encourage local authorities to take a systematic approach to waste prevention. These are:

  • The Waste Minimisation Act 1998 allows a local authority to "do or arrange for the doing of, anything which in its opinion is necessary or expedient for the purpose of minimising the quantities of controlled waste, or controlled waste of any description, generated in its area".
  • The Scottish Executive has made available £2m (up to £62,500 each) to Local Authorities to audit and prevent in-house waste arisings from all local authority services.
  • Waste prevention helps local authorities to meet their targets on diverting biodegradable municipal waste from landfill under the Landfill Allowance Scheme.

Question 38: Should the Scottish Executive take action to ensure local authorities do more on waste prevention? If so, what?

Question 39: Should the Scottish Executive lay down targets on local authorities in relation to waste prevention? If so, what should these targets require and how would this be measured?

Question 40: Do local authority officers require more training on the skills needed to encourage waste prevention? If so, what training is required and who should provide it?

Funding for local authorities' waste prevention work

6.18 In the Republic of Ireland a Waste Prevention Fund has been set up specifically to fund waste prevention activities by local authorities. In the first year of operation several local authorities will be chosen to pilot intensive waste prevention activities. These will be closely monitored and supported with a view to extending the good practice to other local authorities in the second year of the Fund. In Scotland, some local authority Strategic Waste Fund awards have included elements for waste prevention. Clearly, before Strategic Waste Fund awards are allocated and spent on waste prevention, both the Scottish Executive and local authorities need to be satisfied that tangible achievements and value for money can be obtained.

Question 41: Do consultees have any comments on the allocation of Strategic Waste Fund resources to waste prevention work?