Incineration review published

Independent report recommends limit on future incineration capacity.

An independent review of the role of incineration in Scotland, which recommends a  cap on future incineration capacity, has been welcomed by the Circular Economy Minister.

The report, which was authored by waste sector expert Dr Colin Church, reviews the role of incineration in the waste hierarchy, with a focus on aligning national capacity with Scotland’s waste reduction targets.

The report makes 12 policy recommendations for the Scottish Government, local authorities and the wider waste industry, including:

  • no further planning permission should be granted to incineration infrastructure within the scope of this Review, unless balanced by an equal or greater closure of capacity.
  • developing an indicative cap that declines over time for the amount of residual waste treatment needed as Scotland transitions towards a fully circular economy.
  • to strengthen community engagement and trust before, during and after development.

The Scottish Government will set out its initial response to the Review in June.

Public consultations on a Circular Economy Bill and a Waste Route Map will launch this month.

Dr Colin Church said:

“The evidence I received shows that, whilst well-regulated incineration does have a role to play in managing unavoidable residual waste in Scotland, the capacity currently being proposed is likely to be more than needed, so a lot of it should not be built. For the proportion that is developed, the level and quality of engagement with local communities needs to be excellent, which unfortunately has not always been the case to date. There is also more that must be done to reduce the climate impacts of waste incineration, and I look forward to revisiting my provisional recommendations in this area in due course.”

Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater said:

“I would like to thank Dr Church for delivering this work, which will play a pivotal role in shaping Scotland’s future waste policy.

“We want to create a circular economy, where materials stay in use for as long as possible, and nothing is wasted. Only by increasing reuse and recycling can Scotland meet its net zero targets, and we will be publishing ambitious proposals to achieve this soon.

“It is clear from the review that although incineration has a role to play in managing Scotland’s unavoidable, unrecyclable residual waste in a safe way, that role is inevitably limited. As we transition to a circular economy, Scotland will need significantly less incineration capacity than is currently projected and it is vital that we do not have more capacity than we need.

“Dr Church has proposed some valuable recommendations and outlined some important considerations for how we can align the management of residual waste in Scotland with our net zero ambitions. We will consider the recommendations carefully and provide an initial response in June.”


Link to full report.

Two of the recommendations in the report are provisional. These are pending the outcome of further research commissioned for the review on opportunities to decarbonise the residual waste treatment infrastructure sector in Scotland, with the main focus on waste incineration. The Minister has asked Dr Church to remain as chair of the review to oversee this important piece of work.


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