Delivering Scotland's circular economy - proposed Circular Economy Bill: consultation

This consultation seeks views on our proposals for legislation to develop Scotland’s circular economy. The consultation sets out a number of areas in which we are seeking views on whether to take powers within a new Circular Economy Bill.

3) Recycle

Where waste does occur we need to make sure that Scotland is gaining the most value from it. This is essential for our economy and our responsibility as a global citizen.

Ongoing Activity

We are already investing in the infrastructure we need. We launched the Recycling Improvement Fundin 2021, a five-year £70 million fund designed to support local authorities to improve recycling and reuse infrastructure. Over £20.3m has already been awarded to 13 local authorities to increase the quantity and quality of recycling, marking the beginning of one of the biggest investments in recycling in Scotland in a generation. The investments will fund a range of improvements, including more frequent recycling collections, the extension of food and garden waste collections, new capacity to recycle problematic materials like plastic films, and local service redesigns to align with Scotland's Household Recycling Charter. These initial investments are projected to boost recycling by 22,100 tonnes and reduce CO2 emissions by 21,400 tonnes each year - the equivalent of taking over 11,400 cars off the road.

Scotland's Deposit Return Scheme, the first in the UK, will be fully implemented by 16 August 2023. It will be among the most environmentally ambitious and accessible in Europe, including tens of thousands of return points for plastic, metal and glass containers, as well as pick-ups for online deliveries. The scheme will improve recycling rates, tackle littering, encourage wider behaviour change towards materials and help stimulate investment in high quality sorting and reprocessing.

We are working to introduce Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) across a range of materials to increase recycling rates and drive more-sustainable design choices including better recyclability. Packaging EPR, which will see producers covering the cost of efficient and effective local-authority recycling systems for packaging, will come in from 2024 on a UK-wide basis. This is anticipated to increase recycling rates for in-scope packaging materials to 76% by 2030. We are also working with the other UK administrations to bring in EPR for waste electrical and electronic equipment and for batteries.

We are founding signatories of the UK Plastics Pact, led by WRAP, a collaborative initiative that seeks to create a circular economy for plastics. It brings together businesses from across the entire plastics value chain with UK governments and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) behind a common vision and ambitious set of targets, including 100 per cent of plastic packaging to be recyclable or compostable by 2025[37].

The European Parliament voted on 16 February 2022 in favour of a European strategy[38] for offshore renewable energy which calls for an EU-wide landfill ban on decommissioned wind turbine blades by 2025 in order to ensure circularity, minimise the negative environmental impacts on soil and oceans and increase the level of soil protection.

The Scottish Government consulted[39] on onshore wind between October 2021 and January 2022. The Scottish Government supports the use of recycled and refurbished turbines, recognising the enormous potential to strengthen the Scottish supply chain, reduce waste, utilise more of our local skills and capabilities and improve costs for the onshore wind sector. The analysis of consultation responses will be published in the summer and as part of consideration of next steps we will also consider whether to introduce a landfill ban on turbine blades in line with any forthcoming EU legislation.

Proposal 7: Strengthening approach to household recycling collection services


Recycling helps to conserve our natural resources, keeps valuable materials flowing through our economy and reduces the amount of waste sent to landfill. In Scotland we have targets to increase recycling of waste from all sources to 70% by 2025, and reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill to 5% by 2025.

Between 2004 and 2011, Scotland's recycling rate more than doubled. However, in more recent years progress has slowed. Our recycling rate remained at around 45% for several years, and it fell back to 42% in 2020, in part due to the impacts of COVID-19.

While we now recycle more than we send to landfill, it is clear we will not meet our 2025 recycling targets without significant action.

Across Scotland, local authority household recycling rates vary significantly and in 2020 ranged from 18% to 58%[40]. The local authorities with lower recycling rates tend to manage the largest national shares of household waste. We are therefore prioritising measures to embed best practice and drive local improvements to achieve consistently high recycling rates across Scotland.

The voluntary Scottish Household Recycling Charter and its Code of Practice, developed in 2015 in partnership between COSLA and Scottish Government, has been a valuable platform to develop more consistency in the quality and quantity of recycling across Scotland, and has helped inform investment in Scotland's recycling infrastructure. However, only around one-third of local authorities have fully aligned their services to reflect Code of Practice standards.

We propose to take powers to enable Scottish Ministers to place additional requirements on local authorities regarding household collection services and to develop statutory guidance for provision of high-performance household waste services in different contexts. Requirements and future statutory guidance will be informed by findings and outputs from a co-design process to understand opportunities for better service design, putting people at the heart of how services are designed and delivered, building on Scotland's Household Recycling Charter and supporting Code of Practice. The previous consultation paper published in November 2019 considered the value of a move away from the voluntary approach to Scotland's Household Recycling Charter towards a more mandated approach. The vast majority of respondents (91%) responded favourably to this proposal.


The purpose of additional requirements and statutory guidance would be to provide a clear strategic direction for recycling in Scotland, improve consistency of services for households, and accelerate improvements to both the quality and quantity of recycling collected to help meet our targets. Our Route Map consultation proposes a service co-design process with households and operators, to design modern, efficient, affordable waste and recycling service standards.

The Scottish Government sees these reforms, and particularly any move to mandatory systems of collection, as closely linked to forthcoming changes in packaging Extended Producer Responsibility and its funding model, and the implementation of Scotland's Deposit Return Scheme.

Our Route Map consultation has proposed a number of broader measures to boost recycling performance against our 2025 targets, including strengthening the monitoring and reporting framework for local authority waste services, and exploring the use of existing powers to require local authorities to report publicly on end destination of household recycling collected.


17. The previous consultation showed broad support for the proposal that Scottish Ministers should have powers to place additional requirements on local authorities in order to increase rates and quality of household recycling.Is there any new context or evidence that should be taken into account in relation to the proposal?

18. The previous consultation showed broad support for the principle that there should be greater consistency in household recycling collections. Is there any new context or evidence that should be taken into account?

19. The previous consultation showed broad support for the principleof movingaway from the current voluntary approach to Scotland's Household Recycling Charter towards a more mandated approach, whereby implementation of the Charter and its supporting Code of Practice becomes a statutory obligation. Isthere any new context or evidence that should be taken into account?

Proposal 8: The role of targets to support recycling performance


A key element to meeting Scotland's ambitious waste targets is achieving high levels of recycling in all parts of the country. In order to support this aim we propose that the Bill provides powers to enable Scottish Ministers to set recycling targets (e.g. recycling, preparation for reuse and composting) for local authorities to help drive further improvements in local recycling performance. We also propose to consider the introduction of powers for Scottish Ministers to set financial incentives to meet targets, or penalties should these targets not be met.


Research from around the world, commissioned during the development of our Route Map, has shown that statutory targets are a feature of high-performing systems in other nations or regions, particularly where they are introduced alongside other key measures. In Wales - which has one of the highest household recycling rates in the world at 65% - a range of policies have been put in place to drive up performance. This includes establishing a national target which every local authority is expected to meet, with financial penalties that can be applied if an authority does not meet required performance targets.

We recognise that targets must be achievable, that local authorities are at different starting points, and that service providers must have the tools available to meet the required standard. We will therefore work with local government to set achievable, appropriate targets.


20. Do you agree that Scottish Ministers should have the power to introduce statutory recycling targets for local authorities?

A) Yes
B) No
C) Neither agree nor disagree

21. If you agree with Q.20, do you agree that Scottish Ministers should have the power to introduce and set financial incentives for local authorities to meet these targets, or penalties should these targets not be met?

A) Yes
B) No
C) Neither agree nor disagree

22. Please explain your answer

Proposal 9: The Duty of Care for households


Supporting high quality recycling is everybody's responsibility and it is important that we take all reasonable steps to ensure that householders can also play their full part, and make the right choices as easy as possible to take.

The measures described above to support more consistent approaches to household recycling are intended to ensure that householders are clearer about what they can recycle and how to do this.

However, through the Circular Economy Bill and the Route Map we believe it is important to consider wider powers to ensure that appropriate incentives for recycling are in place, and local authorities can properly ensure responsibilities are met.

There is evidence to suggest that rates of non-participation by householders in separating recyclable waste properly is high. SEPA data shows that just under a fifth of everything put out for recycling by householders is non-recyclable[41]. Contamination makes managing recycling collections more costly and in extreme cases, can mean the whole load has to be diverted for incineration or landfill.

There are currently limited powers for local authorities to ensure that households are properly using their recycling containers or to prevent recycling being placed in non-recyclable containers.

As part of the previous consultation in November 2019, we asked if householders' existing obligations were sufficient. The majority of respondents (70%) said 'no'. We are keen to hear views, new evidence or context on whether householders' existing obligations are sufficient and if any further steps should be taken in Scotland to support, encourage or require householders to play their full part in improving both the quality and the quantity of materials provided for recycling. In particular, we are keen to understand views about the current powers local authorities have in this area, and whether powers to enforce recycling requirements through strengthened obligations, or through means of a fine as in England for example, would be appropriate.


Under section 46 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, local authorities can issue notices to householders requiring that household waste be placed in the appropriate bin, for example, landfill, food waste or dry recycling. Failure to comply with a notice is a criminal offence in Scotland. In England, failure to comply with a notice has been decriminalised, and local authorities are able to issue written warnings and fixed penalty notices to householders who have not complied with notices. There is no provision currently for these alternative enforcement methods in Scotland.

Householders have some specific, limited, obligations under the existing Duty of Care guidance[42] to ensure that their waste is handled and stored safely and is only transferred to an appropriately-registered waste carrier.

Scotland's Household Recycling Charter commits to encouraging households to participate in recycling and reuse services to ensure they are fully utilised. Where residents do not follow collection advice and policies, the Charter states that local authorities will ensure that their policies for communicating and taking corrective action are delivered consistently in line with the Code of Practice. In practice, this is limited to serving warning notices and working with households to address contamination. In the most serious cases, a recycling service can be withdrawn if contamination within a recycling container is not addressed.


23. The previous consultation showed broad agreement that householders' existing obligations are not sufficient. Is there any new context or evidence that should be taken into account?

24. Do you agree with the principle that local authorities should have more powers to enforce recycling requirements?

A) Yes
B) No
C) Neither Agree nor Disagree

25. Please add any additional comments

Proposal 10: Incentivising waste reduction and recycling (households)


Through the Route Map consultation, we are proposing to conduct a review of waste and recycling service charging by 2024 to ensure that we have the right incentives to reduce waste and maximise use of recycling and reuse services.

At the moment households in Scotland can be charged for collection of certain waste streams, such as garden waste or uplift of larger items: as a result, householders are effectively being charged for recycling services, which may be acting as a disincentive to recycling. This review will investigate whether the current position incentivises the behaviour that we want in line with the waste hierarchy, or delivers the most value for local authorities, including the highest quality recyclate.

We are seeking views regarding further enabling powers for Scottish Ministers in the Circular Economy Bill, and if appropriate, local authorities, to incentivise positive household behaviours, to support waste reduction and increased recycling.


Analysis of high performing recycling systems around the world[43] suggests that the highest performing systems combine stretching local targets, comprehensive collections, steps to disincentivise or reduce residual waste production and collection, and other incentives such as extended producer responsibility schemes. Evidence suggests householders should be incentivised to minimise residual waste to support recycling rate improvements. In other countries this has been achieved in multiple ways, for example through restricting effective weekly residual waste capacity (via smaller bins and/or less frequent collections), enforced volume limits (as in Wales), or other measures.


26. Are there further powers, if any, for Scottish Ministers, and/or local authorities, that should be considered in order to incentivise positive household behaviours, to support waste reduction and increased recycling in Scotland?

27. Are there any other legislative measures that you consider Scottish Government should take to strengthen recycling and reuse at a household level, helping accelerate the rate and quality of household recycling in Scotland?

28. Please add any additional comments

Proposal 11: Business recycling collection zoning


Through the Circular Economy Bill consultation, and the Route Map, we are keen to hear views on commercial waste zoning approaches for different contexts in Scotland and the potential to pilot these approaches. Scottish Ministers could take powers that would enable Local Authorities to create such zoning areas for commercial waste collections.

Meeting our recycling targets requires all businesses and commercial organisations to fully utilise recycling services.

The variety of business waste collection providers in an area, operating different collection infrastructure and uplift times impacts on the local environment, including air quality, noise and emissions from multiple vehicles entering the same area to service different clients with similar waste.

Business collection zoning involves contractors competing to undertake all commercial collection in a particular 'zone', potentially providing opportunities for greater collaboration, cost savings, service standardisation, reducing traffic, transparent charges and added benefits such as bin weighing, carbon accounting and end-destination reporting as part of the contract. Businesses can also be challenged by the array of commercial waste services available.


Zoning has been utilised by a number of business districts, towns, cities and regions across the world, including Los Angeles, New York, Waregem (Belgium), Barcelona and London, as a method of improving their local environment. Analysis by WRAP has suggested that businesses could save up to 40% by collaborating on service procurement alongside container and collection optimisation[44]. Collaboration could also improve service consistency, and improve recycling performance through optimised efficiency of collections.

There are multiple ways to implement zoning and the Route Map consultation considers this in further detail and seeks views on implementation in Scottish contexts.


29. Do you agree with the principle of Scottish Ministers, and local authorities if appropriate, taking on the necessary powers to explore and trial commercial waste zoning approaches in Scotland?

A) Yes
B) No
C) Neither agree nor disagree

30. Please add any additional comments:



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