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Making Things Last - A Circular Economy Strategy for Scotland

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7. Producer Responsibility for reuse and recycling

7.1 Our ambition

We believe that producer responsibility offers an opportunity to drive innovation and greater circularity for certain products - to influence product design as well as increasing reuse and recycling.

7.2 Context

At its simplest, Producer Responsibility is about ensuring that those who produce products and put them onto the market are responsible for the end of life management of their products, especially for take-back, recycling and final disposal.

There are UK-wide Producer Responsibility regimes for four materials (End of Life Vehicles, Batteries, Packaging, and Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment). Producer responsibility is devolved to the Scottish Parliament but generally delivered by the UK Government with the agreement of the Scottish Government and the administrations of the other devolved nations.

The current regimes are overly complex and are generally opaque to consumers. Consumers have a substantial influence on how much value can be retained from a product, and so there is an opportunity to more accurately reflect the costs of disposing of an item in the price. Each regime for each product type also operates independently, resulting in duplication for business.

The 2015 EU Circular Economy package highlights the much greater role that producer responsibility could play in driving a shift to a more circular economy.

7.3 Priorities

We believe there is potential to reform producer responsibility to keep these products in higher value use, and incentivise the use of products with increased durability, with recycled content or avoiding toxic materials which limit recycling. This could include influencing the demand for secondary materials such as recycled content or material quality.

We intend to explore the concept of a single framework for producer responsibility, bringing together common elements into one flexible and transparent system, making it simpler for businesses who are involved in more than one product type and making it easier to add new products and materials to the producer responsibility regime in the future.

We intend to explore how we can improve the producer responsibility system to promote products that support a more circular economy, for example through increased durability and or with recycled content. We also intend exploring how we could direct more products into higher value use beyond recycling and into reuse and remanufacture.

We want to explore how we can make the costs of recycling and disposing of products more transparent to consumers to help influence their purchase choices.

We intend making tyres, furniture and mattresses subject to producer responsibility, over and above the existing products.

We intend to convene an international group of experts on producer responsibility to develop and model such a framework for debate and discussion.

We will work with the Northern Ireland Executive, Welsh Government and UK Government in exploring this approach across the UK.

Broader action in tackling issues caused by waste tyres

Waste tyres have been banned from being landfilled in Europe since then, the issue of what to do with 'waste tyres' has been a difficult one to find a solution for. The storage and treatment of waste tyres under waste management licensing exemptions had often been associated with illegal activities by businesses such as ignoring the quantity limits in the exemptions, businesses which fail because of a lack of end markets, and fire risk and simply dumping tyres.

Therefore, on 25 January 2016, Scottish Ministers introduced legislation to remove exemptions to the licensing of the storage and treatment of waste tyres. By moving more waste tyre storage sites into waste management licensing, SEPA will be able to monitor breaches of the law, including:

  • how businesses are running waste tyre storage and treatment sites;
  • making sure previously convicted waste tyre site operators stay out of the market;
  • better regulating storage of tyres;
  • reducing fire risk;
  • and ensuring that provisions are in place to cover the costs of waste tyre removal if an operator goes out of business.

Better regulation of operators, and the removal of unlicensed operators from the market, will make it easier for the Scottish Government to encourage recycling of tyres through initiatives such as producer responsibility schemes, as part of its overall policy objective of developing a more circular economy in Scotland.

Broader action in tackling issues caused by waste tyres