Climate Change Plan: monitoring report 2019

Second annual report monitoring progress towards Scotland's 2018 Climate Change Plan.


Greenhouse gas emissions from the waste sector have already been reduced by 72% (1990 to 2017). 

The Plan sets out the following two policy outcomes for the sector:

1. Reduction in waste sent to landfill.

2. Reduction in emissions from closed landfill sites.

Although the total amount of waste landfilled in Scotland in 2018 was 3.74 million tonnes and is not decreasing as quickly as hoped, there was a reduction of 84,876 tonnes (2.2%) from 2017. This is despite the fact that the estimated total quantity of waste generated in Scotland had been increasing. In 2017 it was 11.82 million tonnes, an increase of 5.5% (0.62 million tonnes) from 2016. Most of this increase is due to wastes from Construction and Demolition (C&D) which increased by 10.8% (0.6 million tonnes) from 2016.

Although the recycling rate for all waste decreased slightly from 59.1% in 2016 to 58.9% in 2017, the estimated volume of waste recycled was 6.93 million tonnes, which is 142,195 tonnes (2.1%) more waste recycled than in 2016.

5 landfill sites have been retrofitted with gas capture systems since 2017, and these are now operational.

The carbon impact from household waste has reduced by 2% since 2017.

Closing off of export routes for the recycling of waste has exposed a lack of domestic infrastructure. This will take time to address, and Zero Waste Scotland are working to try to incentivise reprocessors to locate in Scotland.

Output Indicator For Policy Outcome 1: 

From 1 January 2025*, the landfilling of biodegradable municipal waste will be illegal. As a result of that, and the other policy action above, we expect the volume of land filled waste to fall significantly from the current [2016] level of 3.7 million tonnes.

Most Recent Data: The total amount of waste landfilled in Scotland in 2018 was 3.74 million tonnes, which was a reduction of 84,876 tonnes (2.2%) from 2017. 

Data Source(s): SEPA publication “Waste Landfilled in Scotland in 2018”[1].

On Track: No.


The landfilling of biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) was due to be banned in Scotland from 1 January 2021, but that deadline will now move to January 2025. Significant progress has already been made towards the ban – including further strides taken since the Waste Markets Study was published in April. Despite this further progress, it is clear that full compliance by 2021 will not be possible without significant reliance on export options, including  landfill in England, with consequent environmental impact and additional financial implications for local authorities. The additional 4 years will allow for procurement, development, planning and building of waste processing infrastructure, over and above that which is already in the pipeline. There will be a centrally supported procurement intervention to enable those without solutions to secure alternative solutions for remaining BMW tonnage. Scottish Landfill Tax will be used to provide a further incentive to ensure that transitional work proceeds at the necessary pace.

The Scottish Government remains fully committed to ending the practice of sending biodegradable municipal waste to landfill in order to help achieve climate change targets.

*As explained in the commentary above, the date published in the Climate Change Plan of January 2021 has been moved.  Milestones published in the Climate Change Plan will be revised accordingly.

Implementation Indicator For Policy Outcome 1: 

60% of total household waste recycled by 2020.

Most Recent Data: For 2018, the Scottish household waste recycling rate was 44.7%.

Data Source(s): SEPA summary household data for 2018[2]


  • This is a decrease of 0.9 percentage points from the 45.5% rate achieved in 2017. The carbon impact of our household waste fell by 2% compared with 2017. We have succeeded in reducing the carbon impact of household waste by the equivalent of more than one million tonnes of CO2 since 2011. The amount of household waste generated fell by 2% compared with 2017.
  • Recent slowing of progress on recycling is partly due to loss of capacity in global recycling markets, combined with general economic challenges in the waste sector.  Initiatives such as deposit return and extended producer responsibility, together with a review of the Scottish Household Recycling Charter will help to improve recycling rates.
  • The figures for recycling rate demonstrate the need for the further ambitious action we have committed to through Programme for Government.
  • 30 out of 32 Councils have signed the Scottish Household Recycling Charter. Zero Waste Scotland has since 2015 provided a total of £7.5 million to 8 Councils in support for transition to Charter-compliant waste and recyclate collection services. 
  • The Code of Practice is being reviewed to ensure that it aligns with Scotland’s new deposit return system, as well as recent amendments to the EU Waste Framework Directive. 

Implementation Indicator For Policy Outcome 1: 

70% of all waste recycled by 2025.

Most Recent Data: The waste from all sources recycling rate in 2017 was 58.9%. 

Data Source(s): Waste from all sources – Summary data 2017[3].


  • This is a decrease of 0.2 percentage points from the 59.1% of waste recycled in 2016. Despite slight decrease, we remain on track to hit the 2025 target, despite challenges in the global recycling markets.  In response to these challenges, Zero Waste Scotland is working to encourage the development of more domestic recycling and reprocessing infrastructure.
  • We are working with the other governments of the UK on reform of the packaging producer responsibility system to reduce waste and boost recycling.

Implementation Indicator For Policy Outcome 1: 

Household and non-household food waste reduced by 33% by 2025 from 2013 baseline.

Most Recent Data: 2014-2015 Waste Composition Study: Food waste went down from 420,000 tonnes in 2009 to 330,000 tonnes in 2014-2015 (21.5% reduction). This remains the most recent data; arrangements for an ongoing programme of composition work are being put in place.

Baseline Data: N/A.

Change: N/A.


  • The work required to analyse residual waste composition is complex, labour intensive and expensive. It is therefore taking time to develop a sustainable model for this work.
  • Supporting datasets are not yet available for the 2025 target, because the methodology is still being reviewed to set an agreed 2013 baseline. Data are available from the 2014-2015 Zero Waste Scotland Waste Composition Study.  
  • The Food Waste Reduction Action Plan (April 2019), developed in partnership with Zero Waste Scotland, outlines what more can be done to prevent and reduce food waste.

Output Indicator For Policy Outcome 2: 

  2017/18 2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
Number of additional landfill sites with gas capture being developed each year 3 6 9 12

Most Recent Data: As of September 2019, 5 landfill sites have been retrofitted with gas capture systems.

Data Source(s): SEPA project officer[4].

On Track: No.


Fewer landfill sites have been fitted with gas capture systems than was initially planned. This is mainly because the response from local authorities to an offer of funding in 2017 was not good. No further funding is currently available, so future progress will depend on prioritisation within local authority budgets. 

Implementation Indicator For Policy Outcome 2:

Up to 12 landfill gas capture sites supported by 2020-2021.

Most Recent Data: See above.

Data Source(s): See above.


See above.



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