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Making Things Last - A Circular Economy Strategy for Scotland

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10. Landfill

10.1 Our ambition

The Scottish Government is the first administration within the UK to introduce a statutory ban on biodegradable municipal waste going to landfill as part of our transition to a more circular economy. As landfilling decreases, we now want to manage the legacy of landfill sites around Scotland, minimising emissions from operational and closed sites.

10.2 Context

In a circular economy, landfill disposal is an option to be avoided. We already have a strong policy, regulatory and fiscal framework which has delivered significant reductions in the amount of material sent to landfill and will continue this trend. Biodegradable municipal waste will be banned from landfill from 2021, and we have a target to send no more than 5% of all waste to landfill by 2025. Our waste regulations require businesses and local authorities to collect both key recyclable materials and food waste separately, which cannot then be sent to landfill.

As waste for landfilling continues to decrease, we would like to see a managed retreat from landfill with the number of active sites reducing and sites closing in accordance with permit requirements, ensuring necessary aftercare so that environmental protection remains a priority, including minimising climate change impacts.

The Scottish Landfill Tax provides a strong financial incentive to keep materials out of landfill and in higher value uses. It also provides a new deterrent to illegal dumping by bringing this activity under the scope of the tax.

Scottish Landfill Tax rates are in line with UK Landfill Tax rates for 2016-17. We have also committed that Scottish Landfill Tax will be no lower than prevailing UK rates, meaning the standard rate will not fall below £80 a tonne before 2020, to avoid any incentive to move waste between Scotland and England.

The Scottish Landfill Communities Fund provides funding for community or environmental projects in the vicinity of landfill sites, and the Scottish Government has increased the tax credit available to landfill operators to 5.6%, which is ~10% higher than the UK Landfill Communities Fund equivalent.

10.3 Our priorities

SEPA already requires landfill operators to demonstrate that funds are available to cover environmental obligations including for restoration and care after sites close. SEPA is considering options in this area to better ensure that funds are adequate, secure and available when needed.

Former landfill sites are still a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. Innovative flaring technology to remove emissions already applied to two sites in the Scottish Borders is now being implemented in two further sites in Glasgow and East Lothian. SEPA is identifying further sites across Scotland where the same technological approach could be applied.