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Scotland's Zero Waste Plan: Consultation


Annex - C - Future waste data needs


1. Sections 1.5 and 1.6 of the draft Zero Waste Plan discuss improving waste data. Question 3 in the draft Plan asks whether consultees agree with the proposed ways of improving data. These proposed ways are:

  • SEPA to continue to collect data from waste management sites with a licence or permit.
  • Surveys of specific waste streams, as and when required.
  • Regulations under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act to make it mandatory for businesses receiving waste data requests from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency ( SEPA) to complete them.

2. This Annex outlines in more detail why data is required; what is done at the moment to collect data and what more could be done.

Obligations to collect waste data

3. The UK is obliged, under the EU Waste Statistics Regulation, to send waste data returns to the European Commission every two years. These are based on the European Waste Catalogue ( EWC) List of Waste ( EWC 2002), established by Commission decision 2000/532/EC (as amended).

4. More information on the EWC can be found on SEPA's website at http://www.sepa.org.uk/waste/waste_data/reporting_definitions_and_term.aspx

5. Data is required for a number of other reasons, including:

  • To monitor and report on progress towards meeting EU Landfill Directive targets on biodegradable municipal waste landfill diversion.
  • To monitor and report on progress towards meeting the new targets in Article 11 of the revised Waste Framework Directive ( WFD) regarding the preparation for re-use and recycling of non-hazardous construction and demolition waste (excluding naturally occurring defined material) and other recyclates.
  • To monitor and report on the contribution all wastes can play in meeting Climate Change targets.
  • To set and monitor progress towards Scottish waste management targets.
  • To help local authorities and businesses obtain reliable information on materials in residual waste which could be prevented, reused, recycled or recovered.
  • To inform potential policy levers to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill (such potential levers include more landfill bans; more producer responsibility and more voluntary agreements with industry).
  • To inform, and provide increasing certainty for, the private and community sectors when investing in infrastructure to divert waste from landfill.
  • To help Planning Authorities and consultees determine future waste management needs in development plans and individual planning applications.

6. The WFD stipulates that Waste Management Plans must contain certain points of detail. Article 28(3) is particularly relevant to this Annex and the terms of this Article are outlined below.

" The waste management plans shall contain, as appropriate and taking into account the geographical level and coverage of the planning area, at least the following:

a) the type, quantity and source of waste generated within the territory, the waste likely to be shipped from or to the national territory, and an evaluation of the development of waste streams in the future;

b) existing waste collection schemes and major disposal and recovery installations, including any special arrangements for waste oils, hazardous waste or waste streams addressed by specific Community legislation;

c) an assessment of the need for new collection schemes, the closure of existing waste installations, additional waste installation infrastructure in accordance with Article 16, and, if necessary, the investments related thereto;

d) sufficient information on the location criteria for site identification and on the capacity of future disposal or major recovery installations, if necessary;

e) general waste management policies, including planned waste management technologies and methods, or policies for waste posing specific management problems"

What type of data is required?

7. A wide variety of data is required, including information on:

  • total amounts of waste produced.
  • treatment methods for waste.
  • recycling and composting.
  • waste managed by exempt activities.
  • imports and exports.

8. So far as possible, this information should be split into the following categories:

  • Household waste.
  • Municipal waste.
  • Commercial and industrial waste.
  • Construction and demolition waste.

9. In addition, information should be classified:

  • On a regional basis (eg by local authority area).
  • By material.
  • By sector of the economy.
  • By its hazardousness (eg Special waste)

10. Additional information is required for municipal waste in relation to:

  • The amount of biodegradable municipal waste landfilled (so that progress with the EU Landfill Directive targets can be monitored).
  • The amount of municipal waste collected by or on behalf of individual local authorities.
  • The management and treatment of municipal waste by or on behalf of individual local authorities.

11. Compositional analysis of all waste produced is also required to:

  • Inform future policy and infrastructure needs.
  • To provide reliable information on recycling performance and on materials or geographical areas where further work is required.
  • To provide information on the biodegradable fraction of waste.

Municipal waste data

12. Whilst some individual local authorities have carried out compositional analyses, these have not always been carried out on the same basis. SEPA have published a methodology for carrying out household waste compositional analysis: http://www.sepa.org.uk/waste/waste_publications/research_and_development.aspx

13. Waste and Resource Action Programme ( WRAP) are currently carrying out a one-off analysis of the composition of municipal waste in Scotland. The composition of household waste is currently considered to be along the following lines:

Household Waste Category

Average Proportion of Household Waste

Garden waste

23 %

Paper & cardboard

18 %

Kitchen waste ( i.e. food)

17 %

General household sweepings

9 %


8 %


7 %

Scrap metal

5 %


5 %


3 %

Metal packaging

3 %


2 %


100 %

Source: Waste & Resources Action Programme ( WRAP)

14. Scottish Government considers that compositional analysis of municipal waste should be carried out regularly, following the SEPA methodology and with the results sent to SEPA for inclusion in the Waste Data Digests. However, as municipal waste is a local authority responsibility there will not be funds available centrally to pay for a rolling programme. SEPA's Waste Data Strategy (see paragraph 19 below) has recommended adding additional questions to WasteDataFlow to allow the reporting of waste analysis results obtained by local authorities.

15. Data on municipal waste collected and published by SEPA can be found at: http://www.sepa.org.uk/waste/waste_data/municipal_waste.aspx Local authorities have a statutory duty to report data to SEPA quarterly through Waste Data Flow. It was agreed that they return their data to SEPA within 42 days of the end of the relevant quarter and SEPA has 3 months to publish headline figures from the returns. Additionally SEPA has a statutory duty to complete annual draft reconciliation for the Landfill Allowance Scheme by 31 August each year.

16. SEPA validate these returns, raise queries with local authorities as appropriate and ensure that data, and the descriptions used, can be readily understood by non-waste management professionals (eg land-use planners).

17. Local authorities currently have little confidence in the accuracy of the commercial tonnages they report. This is largely due to the fact that many local authorities collect commercial waste with household waste and there is a lack of adequate technology or mechanisms to capture and record accurate tonnages at source. SEPA has carried out a survey of commercial waste services provided by local authorities, which identifies different methods used by local authorities to estimate commercial waste.

18. As part of their Waste Data Strategy, SEPA plan to carry out a study to investigate options to improve the accuracy of gathering and reporting commercial waste data by local authorities.

SEPA's Waste Data Strategy

19. A review of SEPA's Waste Data Strategy was carried out in 2008 at the request of Scottish Government. The aim of the review was to ensure that the continually increasing requirement for waste information at a Scottish, UK and European level is met. SEPA are publishing the latest Waste Data Strategy on their website.

Data - commercial and industrial waste (including construction and demolition waste)

20. Data on Commercial and Industrial Waste (including construction and demolition waste) can be found at: http://www.sepa.org.uk/waste/waste_data_1/commercial__industrial_waste.aspx

21. Collecting data on commercial and industrial waste arisings is challenging, given that there is currently no statutory duty on producers to report their waste to SEPA and given the number of waste producers. Information on the management of commercial and industrial waste is more robust, but there are potential issues with possible double counting.

Level of confidence in commercial and industrial data

22. The levels of confidence SEPA currently have in commercial and industrial waste data varies, depending on the source. In broad terms:

  • There is a greater level of confidence in construction and demolition waste data than in data from other commercial and industrial waste streams.
  • There is a high level of confidence in the data on the amounts of waste landfilled and incinerated.
  • There is less confidence in the data on the amounts of commercial and industrial waste recycled and composted and on the overall amounts of commercial and industrial waste produced.

23. SEPA has attempted to deal with this lack of information in two ways. First, directly, by carrying out national business waste surveys and second, indirectly, by using information gathered by the quarterly licensed/permitted waste management site returns. Both have their drawbacks:

  • SURVEY: The main issue with the surveys is that they do not provide sufficiently accurate data. For example, the 2006 survey showed that the total business waste produced in Scotland in 2006 was estimated to be 7.64 million tonnes with a 95% confidence interval of 2.60 to 13.42 million tonnes. This was mainly because of the poor response from businesses to the survey. A proportion of Scottish businesses, about 29,800, were surveyed and there was a usable response rate of 10.8 % (3,232). This represented only 2.3% of all businesses in Scotland. It was clear from the survey that some businesses who replied had little knowledge of their waste. The cost of a survey would be about £80,000 at present values.
  • QUARTERLY LICENSED/PERMIT RETURNS: The information collected by the quarterly licensed/permitted site returns is good but only deals with the waste managed at licensed/permitted sites. Returns do not collect any information on the producer of the waste and only limited information on its geographical origin. Because of the potential for double counting it is also not possible to get completely accurate figures for the waste produced. SEPA has developed methodologies to reduce double counting.

24. Additionally a number of outside organisations are collecting some data on commercial and industrial waste, to inform their business plans or as part of one-off research projects. However care needs to be taken as the data obtained is only likely to be a "snap-shot" and SEPA cannot guarantee the quality of the data obtained. There are also data studies commissioned by private sector companies for their own commercial purposes and these are unlikely to be in the public domain.

Suggestions put forward for improving the commercial and industrial and construction and demolition waste data

25. A variety of suggestions have been put forward as ways of improving the quality of data in relation to non-municipal waste. These suggestions include:

  • The inclusion of more information in waste returns from licensed sites to SEPA.
  • A requirement for all specified waste management activities permitted under the Pollution Prevention Control ( PPC) regulations to submit waste data returns.
  • The inclusion of additional information, such as the Standard Industrial Classification Code of the waste producer, in the waste transfer notes required under Duty of Care and require the waste transfer notes to be sent routinely to SEPA.
  • Mandatory returns from businesses to SEPA on waste produced. Appropriate powers are contained in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act. Scottish Ministers are obliged to lay the first draft regulations under this section before Parliament no later than 12 months after the day the section is commenced. The commencement date for this section is likely to be by the end of 2009.
  • Priority Waste Stream data projects looking at specific waste streams.

26. These proposals are examined in further detail below.

Obtaining data from licensed sites

27. SEPA already obtain data from waste management sites with a Waste Management Licence or a Pollution, Prevention and Control ( PPC) Permit on the amount of waste they are handling. This data provides highly reliable information, for example, on the amount of waste landfilled and the amount of waste incinerated. However, there are some drawbacks to relying on information from licence returns. These drawbacks include:

  • Some PPC permits do not require the submission of waste data to SEPA.
  • Some waste is managed at sites exempt from waste management licensing and not all exempt activities have a requirement to report data to SEPA.
  • Waste may transfer from site to site and may, as a result, be double-counted.
  • Returns do not provide information on the type of industry producing the waste.
  • Returns only provide information on waste handled in Scotland. Therefore, information is not available on Scottish waste managed outwith Scotland.

28. SEPA can overcome some of these difficulties. For example, the PPC templates can be amended (this is one of the actions in SEPA's Waste Data Strategy) and estimates can be made of the impact of potential double-counting. Estimates can also be made of the amounts of waste handled at exempt sites where returns are not available. SEPA will continue to do work in these types of areas.

Using waste transfer notes

29. Section 34(1) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 imposes a duty of care on any person who imports, produces, carries, keeps, treats or disposes of controlled waste or, as a broker, has control of such waste. The Environmental Protection (Duty of Care) Regulations 1991, as amended, lay down that when waste is transferred, the transferor and the transferee must complete and sign a transfer note. Amongst other matters, this transfer note must identify the waste in question and state its quantity.

30 Waste transfer notes are often of a poor quality. Question 13, in section 3.9 of the draft Zero Waste Plan, asks whether a campaign should be run to remind companies of their responsibilities under Duty of Care.

31. However, waste transfer notes are not routinely sent to SEPA. Regulations could be made under section 34(5) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 requiring either producers, or the company first handling the waste after the producer discards it, to send the waste transfer notes to SEPA (either manually or electronically). The Government considers, though, that requiring all waste transfer notes to be sent to SEPA would impose a disproportionate burden on business, and on SEPA. Therefore, the Government does not intend to make regulations requiring all waste transfer notes to be sent to SEPA.

32. However, Government and SEPA do consider that there may be an argument for waste transfer notes to include Standard Industrial Classification ( SIC) codes and for waste management companies to then provide this information to SEPA through returns from licensed sites. This issue will be considered further in the consultation mentioned in paragraph 37 below.

Mandatory waste data returns to SEPA

33. The Climate Change (Scotland) Act allows the Scottish Ministers to make regulations requiring persons of the kinds specified to provide SEPA with information on the waste produced by or otherwise associated with such persons' activities. The Scottish Ministers are obliged to lay the first draft regulations under this section before Parliament no later than 12 months after the day the section is commenced. The commencement date for this section is likely to be by the end of 2009.

34. The Government considers it reasonable to require businesses, particularly larger ones, to have a knowledge of their waste and to report this to SEPA. As outlined in paragraph 23 of this Annex, the current response rate to voluntary waste data surveys of business is poor. This strengthens the case for statutory returns from business.

35. Businesses themselves are likely to benefit in a number of ways from statutory reporting, including:

  • identification of cost reduction opportunities through waste minimisation and increased recycling;
  • an enhanced image and reputation by being able to prove good environmental practice;
  • improved dialogue with the Government and SEPA.
  • Identification of potential business opportunities in managing waste.

36. Government intends to make regulations requiring businesses to complete data requests from SEPA.

37 . There will be a consultation in the next few months on the detail of these regulations. Options may include carrying out surveys, and requiring businesses to participate, or requiring businesses above a certain size to report waste data annually to SEPA.

Priority Waste Stream data projects looking at specific waste streams.

38. SEPA have carried out (or commissioned) a number of these in the past: http://www.sepa.org.uk/waste/waste_publications/national_best_practice_project.aspx

39. Such studies provide useful information on data in specific streams. This might be of interest, for example, to potential investors obtaining information before deciding whether to invest in infrastructure to divert waste from landfill. However, projects of this nature tend to be one-off and so are less useful for regular data publications.

Scottish Government
August 2009