The Scottish Government has been highly active in driving the development of circular economy policies that will shape the future direction the country will take. While the government has made good progress over the years in increasing recycling rates and reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill, it recognises the need to develop a holistic Circular Economy Bill. In order to align this Bill with the views of Scottish citizens and businesses, a consultation was launched to gather feedback on the main proposals put forward. The consultation opened on 30th May 2022 and closed on 22nd August 2022. Ricardo Energy & Environment (Ricardo) were commissioned by the Scottish Government to undertake the analysis of consultation responses. The overall aim of this report is to provide a robust analysis of the responses to the consultation on proposals for a Circular Economy Bill. Full, detailed analysis of the responses was carried out via a Microsoft Excel database, while this report provides a quantitative and qualitative summary of the key points and sentiments.
Profile of Respondents
During the consultation period, 1,681 responses were received. This included 315 responses through the Citizen Space portal, 1,366 emailed responses, of which 1,333 organised campaign responses and, in turn of which 1,319 were standard and 14 non-standard. The breakdown by respondent type were as follows: 295 responses from individuals, 142 from organisations including waste management sectors, environmental consultancies and public interest groups, and 1,244 for which this information was not available.
Approach to Analysis
Respondents were asked to consider 13 policy proposals contained within the Circular Economy Bill, by answering 40 questions (8 closed questions, 32 open free text questions), which were analysed during this consultation. These were grouped across four strategies: Strategic Interventions, Reduce and Reuse, Recycling, Littering and Improving Enforcement.
Depending on the source of responses, they were either downloaded via Citizen Space or a secure shared folder and imported into the bespoke analysis tool. Once this data was imported, it was ‘cleaned’ by identifying blank and duplicate responses. These responses were not deleted but were excluded from further analysis. For responses via email, Ricardo split the response into the relevant question columns, and when responses were identified as being part of a campaign, these were noted as standard or non-standard.
Analysis was undertaken in two steps: drawing out the key concepts from each free text answer and rating each response as positive or negative on a scale of -2 to +2. This allowed the responses to be quantitatively analysed, and average scores were generated per question and per theme.
The manual ‘cleaning’ of data meant that there was a risk of human error. This was mitigated by our quality assurance process during which our Project Manager oversaw the task and conducted a review of the final database. In addition, the large number of responses necessitated a number of team members for the analysis stage. This allowed for potential error due to the likelihood of different interpretation between team members. The team were briefed thoroughly on the project, tool, and sentiment scoring procedure. In order to mitigate this, the Project Manager regularly reviewed the work done by team members to identify and address errors. The analysis tool itself was also reviewed using our automated in-house Microsoft Excel QA tool. This process reviewed formulas and highlighted any inconsistency meaning that it is not expected that our tool generated a limitation to the task.
Standard campaign responses could not be analysed individually within the timescale of the analysis, so we were not able to provide a complete analysis per respondent type (individual or organisation). In order to identify non-standard responses, the file size of the email was assessed and, if outside a certain threshold, was deemed non-standard pending further review. Other emails with a subject line differing from the standard were also individually reviewed. All other campaign responses were assumed to be standard.
Please note that our in-house qualitative survey analysis tool had already been reviewed using our automated in-house Microsoft Excel QA tool. This process reviewed formulas and highlighted any inconsistency meaning that it is not expected that our tool generated a limitation to the task.
Overview of Findings
Proposal 1: Circular economy strategy obligation
The majority agreed that a five-yearly Circular Economy Strategy would allow Scotland to react and adapt to changing environmental issues and regulatory landscapes. Out of the 320 responses received that answered this question, 87% of the respondents were supportive of the duty to publish such a strategy. From the further comments, the most common sentiment score was 5.00, with the overall average score 4.68, the average sentiment score for individuals 4.71 and for organisations 4.63. This indicates strong support for the measure. It was felt there should be regular reporting and progress updates to ensure accountability. Some stated that a new strategy would need to align with existing legislation in Scotland, and it would also be beneficial to align with strategies from the other devolved nations. Some respondents felt there should be a focus on collaboration with businesses, and that sector-specific plans should be developed, as well as a longer-term strategy. It was noted that the strategy alone would not combat the environmental crisis, but that behaviour change across society and products’ life cycles is needed, while some felt that such a regular review of the strategy would lead to unnecessary administrative burden.
Proposal 2: Statutory targets - consumption reduction, reuse and recycling
Out of the 314 responses that addressed this question, 86% of the respondents supported the proposal to set statutory targets. From the further comments, the average score was 4.90, with the most common sentiment score 5.00, showing strong support. The average sentiment for individuals was 4.52, and for organisations 4.36. Most respondents agreed with the necessity for relevant, ambitious statutory targets. There was an acknowledgement that voluntary waste-based and resource consumption targets have largely been ineffective and instead evidence and science-based targets would have a greater effect. Campaign responses noted that targets should take into account Scotland’s impact abroad, for example imported goods, while others pointed out that targets should align with the rest of the UK and not interfere with other policies like Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and Deposit Return Scheme (DRS). Respondents made clear that there should be a robust monitoring framework to evaluate the targets’ efficacy. Finally, while some stated that full carbon and material footprint targets should be in place, others noted that complex reporting may be difficult for smaller organisations and local authorities.
Proposal 3: Establishment of circular economy public body
There was some split of opinions regarding this proposal, though the majority of respondents were overall positive. In response to the question, “should a dedicated Circular Economy public body be established?”, 312 responses were received, of which 60% of respondents answered ‘yes’, 11% answered ‘no’ and 29% neither agreed nor disagreed. Individuals were more supportive than organisations, the average sentiment score for this question for individuals was 4.78, while for organisations it was 4.47. Please note that in this case, and for all questions addressed by the organised campaign, campaign responses only answered the qualitative questions. This meant that where closed and opened questions were asked on the same topic and the standard campaign response addressed this topic, the sentiment of each question may be skewed as only the open question was answered.
It was felt that a circular economy public body could fulfil such functions as the impartial monitoring of statutory targets, efforts to increase public awareness of the circular economy, support for Scottish businesses, research and innovation, and provision of policy recommendations. It should be stated that respondents were clear that any new body should be politically impartial and independent of government. The main reservations regarding the establishment of a new public body surrounded the risk of overlap between existing organisations such as Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). It was felt that there might be additional bureaucratic and administrative burden, increasing costs for taxpayers. Though some respondents were opposed to the potential remit of the body, most simply thought that existing bodies may be able to carry out said remit more effectively.
Proposal 4: Measures to ban the destruction of unsold durable goods
In general, there was good support for this proposal (86% of the respondents out of the 303 responses that addressed this question answered ‘yes’), as respondents felt it would help to reduce overproduction and enforce sustainable stock control measures, in turn reducing material consumption. The overall average sentiment score for the proposal was 4.17, while the most common sentiment score was 5.00. The average score for individuals was 4.20 and for organisations 4.14. It was felt that there may be teething problems for businesses in the short term, but long-term they would see the benefits of better stock management practices. It was noted that consumers should be educated on areas like in-built obsolescence, and that the proposal could potentially be combined with EPR measures. Respondents also felt that the proposal could have a social impact, as unsold goods could be donated to vulnerable members of society. However, some stated their doubt that the goods would end up being used. For those not in favour, reasons included the need for a more robust definition and scope of ‘durable goods’, increased costs for businesses, lack of enforcement and investigation potential, the risk of loopholes, and lack of storage for unsold goods.
In terms of products that should be included, a word cloud was generated from the responses to visually represent the most common responses. As can be seen, plastics, food, furniture, textiles and electrical goods were mentioned the most frequently.
A second word cloud was generated showing the most common responses to a question asking what should be excluded from such a ban. The most common response to this was that no products should be excluded, though medical devices and those products that may be hazardous to health were frequently mentioned as being necessary for exclusion.
Proposal 5: Environmental charging for single-use items
There was general support for charging for single-use items: the most common sentiment score was 4.00 and the overall average sentiment score was 3.91, the average sentiment for individuals was 3.98, and for organisations 3.84. A number of respondents suggested an outright ban, or that the charge be extended to other sectors like textiles and fashion and manufacturing. Respondents pointed to the success of the carrier bag charge and noted that extending this charge may lead to a reduction in littering. It was felt that such a charge should be accompanied by a public awareness campaign as well as efforts to ensure the affordability and availability of sustainable alternatives and the availability of recycling facilities. Some felt that during the cost-of-living crisis, it would be unfair to impose extra costs on vulnerable members of society, especially as charges may be duplicated by other legislation like the DRS. Suggestions were made to impose charges further up the supply chain and harmonise legislation between the devolved nations to reduce administrative burdens.
Proposal 6: Mandatory reporting of waste and surplus
In general, the mandatory reporting of waste met a varied response, with most agreeing on a conditional basis. Responses to the question regarding the mandatory reporting of surplus stock were mixed: the most common sentiment score was 4.00 and the overall average sentiment score was 3.91, the average sentiment for individuals was 3.98, and 3.84 for organisations. However, responses were more positive regarding the prioritisation of food waste, with an average overall sentiment score of 4.32 and most common sentiment score of 5.00, the average sentiment score for individuals was 4.24, and for organisations 4.39. In terms of other priority waste streams, it was felt that items with the highest environmental, social and cost impact, and with the highest reuse potential, should be prioritised. Respondents stated that with robust data collection and public transparency requirements, it would have the potential to drive awareness of carbon impacts and improve decision-making. However, it was felt that the administrative burden would be disproportionately felt by smaller organisations. Most respondents agreed that food waste should be prioritised, with many noting the social benefits of food redistribution. Some felt that the definition of food waste could be adjusted to ensure the distribution of safe leftover food to those who need it. A word cloud was generated of the other waste stream suggestions, as can be seen below.
Most frequently mentioned was clothing and textiles, followed closely by plastics, electronics and packaging. A number of respondents stated that all streams should be prioritised.
Proposal 7: Strengthening approach to household recycling collection services
In general, there was support for efforts to increase recycling rates, but it was noted that better funding and consistency is needed to increase recycling rates and reduce contamination. The overall average score for the question regarding requirements for local authorities to increase recycling rates was 4.88, with the most common score at 5.00, the average sentiment score for individuals was 4.44, and for organisations 3.85. There was similar support for increasing consistency of recycling services across Scotland: the most common sentiment score was 5.00 and overall average sentiment score of 4.91, the average sentiment for individuals was 4.53, and for organisations 4.08. It was felt that collection services should be designed in such a way as to encourage householders to prioritise recycling, such as reducing the frequency of residual waste collections, though some noted that this may increase fly-tipping. Standardisation of waste collections across Scotland was noted as a priority to reduce confusion and encourage greater participation, though greater investment in waste infrastructure is required. Some noted that specific rural/island communities may benefit from bespoke collection services.
Responses to the mandating of Scotland’s Household Recycling Charter were positive but slightly more mixed: the most common sentiment score was 4.00 while the overall sentiment average was 3.79, the individuals’ sentiment score was 3.58 and the organisations’ was 4.00. The majority of respondents felt that making the Household Recycling Charter a mandatory requirement would be the best way of ensuring consistency and accountability, though manufacturers should share some of the obligations as they are responsible for producing the goods. It is important that any charter incorporate potential changes to waste streams from initiatives like EPR and DRS. There was some concern over enforcement, and that a mandatory charter may be excessive.
Proposal 8: The role of targets to support recycling performance
Out of the 293 respondents who answered this question, 84% of the respondents support the power for Scottish Ministers to introduce statutory recycling targets for local authorities, though a slightly lower 75% agree that financial incentives and penalties should be used to support these targets. The most common sentiment score for this question was 4.00, with an average sentiment score of 3.82, the average score for individuals was 3.75, and for organisations 3.91. Respondents were generally supportive of introducing targets to support recycling performance. There was a clear preference of incentives over penalties, as it was felt that local authorities are often underfunded already and should not be further punished for individual non-participation. Some respondents felt that any fines should be felt at the household level, while others supported penalising manufacturers in the first instance. Respondents believed that targets should be tailored to location and circumstance (though some noted that national aggregation may be difficult) and that approaches should be harmonised across the UK. A number of respondents felt that Scotland’s waste infrastructure requires significant improvement and investment as a priority. Those with reservations felt that recycling targets take focus away from waste reduction and reuse which are preferrable on the waste hierarchy. Some stated that more information and clarity was needed, and that it would place too much financial and administrative burden on local authorities.
Proposal 9: The Duty of Care for households
There were varied responses as to whether householders’ existing obligations are insufficient. The overall sentiment score was 3.85 with the most common score as 4.00, the average sentiment score for individuals was 3.79, 9.92 for organisations. In terms of whether local authorities should have more powers, 80% of the respondents who answered this question agreed. The most common sentiment score for this question was 4.00, while the average sentiment score was 3.70, the average sentiment score for individuals was 3.62, 3.80 for organisations. Some were supportive of enforcement actions such as fixed penalties, particularly for repeat offenders. However, others felt that not only would enforcement be difficult and time-consuming, but it may have a disproportionate impact on vulnerable groups, those without good access to recycling services and those with shared waste facilities. Overall, there was a sense that engagement and public awareness activities may be more useful, as well as investment in waste infrastructure and collection services.
Proposal 10: Incentivising waste reduction and recycling (households)
There was some support for increasing the number of powers available to local authorities to incentivise recycling: the most common sentiment score for this measure was 4.00 and the overall average sentiment score 3.39, the average sentiment score for individuals was 3.45, for organisations 3.26. Some respondents supported incentives to reduce waste and increase recycling rates such as council tax rebates for good behaviour, though others doubted the effectiveness of this measure. In general, it was felt that education and behaviour change initiatives would be the most effective measures, such as national campaigns. Some pointed to Wales as a best-practice example of recycling participation. Other measures that could be used to incentivise waste reduction include monitoring of recycling, such as implementing a mandatory annual volume of recycling sent to a Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRC) per year, increasing the number of reuse and repair stations at recycling centres, and introducing a statutory obligation to comply with recycling schemes. Some felt that targeting consumers was not the appropriate response as they have little influence over the volume or recyclability of products and packaging, so laws for producers should be prioritised.
Proposal 11: Business recycling collection zoning
While 66% of respondents who answered this question indicated their support for this measure, free-text responses to this were mixed. The most common sentiment score was 4.00 while the overall average sentiment score was 3.13, the average sentiment score for individuals was 3.17, 3.11 for organisations. Some believed the proposal could improve efficiency and cost effectiveness, reduce the impact on SMEs and benefit recycling rates, carbon accounting and waste destination reporting. However, others felt that zoning may only work in certain localities such as larger cities and may increase costs to local authorities. A number of risks were also identified, including the potential for anti-competitiveness, reduction in choice, the inefficiency of subcontracting services and increased bureaucracy, and higher costs to producers leading to a lack of innovation and job losses.
Proposal 12: New penalty for littering from vehicles
Respondents were generally supportive of this measure (the most common sentiment score was 5.00, and the overall average sentiment score was 4.06, the average sentiment score for individuals was 3.77, for organisations 4.35), with some also stating that it should extend to ships and boats (as long as adequate port facilities are available). Some stated that benefits could include an improvement in biodiversity corridors along key travel routes and education opportunities for litterers. Some respondents’ support was more conditional, however: it was felt that the lack of resources for enforcement would be a key limitation, with a tendency to ignore low-level infractions. It would also be difficult to prove that an offence had occurred. Respondents suggested that a focus be placed on awareness campaigns, and if any penalty is to be imposed, for it to be in the form of points on a driving licence rather than a criminal offence.
Some respondents supported the notion that the registered owner of the vehicle should be held responsible as it would streamline the penalty process, however others felt that punishing the owner rather than the offender would do nothing to effect behaviour change. Some highlighted the need for a preventative rather than punitive approach, with a focus on education as a first resort. The overall average sentiment score for this measure was 4.05, while the most common sentiment score was 5.00. The average sentiment score for individuals was 3.82, for organisations 4.29.
Proposal 13: Seizure of vehicles
This proposal saw a high split between responses: the most common sentiment score was 5.00 while the overall average sentiment score was 3.99, the average sentiment score for individuals was 3.97, and for organisations 4.00. Some felt it would be a useful deterrent and supported the use of large fines and the destruction of the vehicle as a last resort. Others felt that police should have the ability to seize other assets which would be useful if the driver was not the registered owner of the vehicle. Some respondents noted the importance of aligning with England and Wales via the Clean Neighbourhood Act of 2005, while there was again a call to extend the proposal to other vehicles. Those not in support felt that there would be limited capacity to enforce the measure, and that it would be very extreme, potentially disproportionately disadvantaging vulnerable groups who may have limited access to transportation. It was suggested that any measure should be proportionate, with a focus on awareness and education over criminal charges.
There is a problem
Thanks for your feedback