Developing Scotland's circular economy - proposals for legislation: analysis of responses

Independent analysis of responses to the “Developing Scotland’s circular economy: consultation on proposals for legislation” paper which included proposals for a circular economy bill and two secondary regulations relating to single-use carrier bags and procurement.

Executive summary

Introduction (Chapter 1)

1. In Autumn 2019, the Scottish Government carried out a public consultation to invite views on its proposals to develop Scotland's circular economy. The consultation paper, Developing Scotland's Circular Economy: Proposals for Legislation, focused on (i) a range of proposals to inform a Circular Economy Bill, and (ii) proposals to use existing powers more effectively through secondary legislation / regulations.[1]

2. The consultation ran from 7 November 2019 to 19 December 2019 and contained 22 questions comprising 13 closed (tick-box) questions; five multi-part questions which had both a closed and a follow-on open question; and four questions which were fully open (with no preceding closed question).

Description of the responses and respondents (Chapter 2)

3. The consultation received 1,658 responses from 144 organisations or groups, 270 individuals and 1,244 campaign respondents. Organisational respondents included a wide range of public, private and third sector organisations based in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK.

Reduce: tackling our throwaway culture (Chapter 3)

4. Section 1 of the consultation paper set out the Scottish Government's proposal to include in the Circular Economy Bill a power to enable Scottish Ministers to levy charges on certain items, such as single-use disposable items, that are (i) harmful to the environment, (ii) can be replaced with sustainable alternatives, or (iii) problematic to recycle. In addition, the Scottish Government proposed that such a charge should be applied to single-use disposable beverage cups as a first priority. Respondents were asked: (i) if they agreed that Scottish Ministers should have the power to set charges for environmentally harmful items and (ii) if they agreed that the introduction of charges for single-use disposable beverage cups should be prioritised. Respondents were also asked for their views about what items these powers should be applied to in the future.

5. A large majority of respondents agreed that Scottish Ministers should have the power to set charges for environmentally harmful items, and that the introduction of charges for single-use disposable beverage cups should be prioritised. Beverage and vending companies and packaging and other manufacturing organisations were more likely than other organisations to disagree.

6. Respondents identified a wide variety of items that environmental charges could be applied to in the future, the most common of which were plastic takeaway food containers (including salad and sandwich pre-packed boxes, and any food containers made of polystyrene), disposable cutlery, stirrers and straws. Some respondents suggested that environmental charging for these items should be seen as an interim measure before more formal legislative restrictions come into place in the future.

7. Some respondents thought the primary purpose of environmental charges should be to incentivise the use of reusable alternatives and that the charges should be sufficient to achieve this. Others suggested that, for the purposes of legislation, clarification was needed about what, exactly, constituted 'single-use' and 'environmentally harmful'.

8. Respondents commenting from an industry perspective wanted the Scottish Government to work with industry to obtain a thorough understanding of the feasibility and timings of finding alternative packaging solutions before introducing any new environmental changes beyond those proposed for single-use beverage cups. This group also thought that decisions about implementation and / or future priority items should be based on sound research, full impact assessment and life cycle analysis.

Reuse: encouraging use and reuse to prevent waste (Chapter 4)

9. Section 2 of the consultation paper discussed proposals that the Circular Economy Bill should introduce a power to enable Scottish Ministers to require mandatory public reporting of unwanted surplus stock and waste of certain materials by Scottish businesses.

10. Respondents were asked if they agreed that Scottish Ministers should have the power to require mandatory public reporting of (i) business waste and surplus, and (ii) food waste and surplus. Respondents were also asked for their views about (i) whether mandatory reporting requirements should be expanded to cover other items in the future, such as textiles and clothing, and (ii) how best to encourage the reuse and redistribution of unwanted surplus stock.

11. A large majority of respondents agreed that there should be a requirement for mandatory reporting of business waste and surplus, and food waste and surplus. Among organisations (i) food, drink, hospitality, tourism and retail organisations and (ii) packaging manufacturers and other manufacturing organisations were less likely than others to agree.

12. There was strong support for mandatory reporting requirements to be extended to include other types of waste and surplus in the future, including textiles and clothing. However, certain groups of organisations (food, drink, hospitality, tourism and retail organisations; packaging and other manufacturing organisations; and beverage and vending companies) were less likely than others to agree.

13. Among those who supported the expansion of mandatory reporting requirements in the future, there was general agreement that textiles and clothing surplus / waste should be covered. Other items frequently identified by respondents for future mandatory reporting were: (i) building materials, construction waste and construction site personal protection equipment, (ii) chemicals (including paints, varnishes, fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides and fuel), (iii) electrical equipment (e.g. IT equipment, televisions, radios, mobile phones, headphones, charges, household appliances, tools, cables, etc.), (iv) furniture (domestic and office), and (v) man-made floor coverings (e.g. lino, composite materials).

14. Respondents also specifically mentioned certain industries or sectors of the economy where they thought mandatory reporting should be introduced in relation to surplus and waste. These were in relation to construction, hospitality, agriculture, horticulture, fishing / aquaculture, healthcare (including pharmacological and medical), online retail, energy (including nuclear energy), and petrochemical manufacture. More generally, there was a view that mandatory reporting requirements should start with those sectors that have the highest life cycle environment and social costs, and those with the highest reuse potential.

15. Respondents offered a range of suggestions about how to encourage the reuse and redistribution of unwanted surplus stock. These suggestions generally focused on: (i) possible mechanisms for facilitating reuse / redistribution, (ii) the types of organisations / groups that could receive redistributed surplus stock and (iii) the potential challenges of redistributing surplus (or used) stock for certain types of materials.

Recycle: maximising the value of materials (Chapter 5)

16. Section 3 of the consultation paper discussed the Scottish Government's proposals to use legislation to improve recycling rates in Scotland. This would involve a move away from the current voluntary approach to Scotland's Household Recycling Charter towards a more mandated approach.

17. A large majority of respondents were in favour of placing additional requirements on local authorities to increase the rate and quality of household recycling, although public sector organisations were more likely than others to disagree. Respondents supporting additional requirements on local authorities made a wide range of suggestions about what these could involve. The most common suggestions related to: (i) better public engagement, education and communication, (ii) improving recycling systems and infrastructure, (iii) collecting a wider range of materials, (iv) improving the quality of recyclate, (v) expanding processing capacity, and (vi) monitoring / reporting of progress towards improved recycling.

18. Respondents generally agreed with the principle of greater consistency in household recycling collections across different local authority areas, and they largely supported a move away from the current voluntary approach to household recycling towards a more mandated approach. However, public sector organisations were less likely than other organisational respondents to agree with these proposals. Individual respondents (more so than organisations) also thought that there should be additional obligations on householders to improve recycling rates.

19. Respondents made a range of suggestions about other steps that could be taken at a national level to improve the rate and quality of household recycling. These focused on (i) improving communication and information to householders, (ii) expanding national and local recycling facilities and markets for recycled materials, (iii) proper funding of services via the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme, (iv) improving the accessibility of recycling bins / collections, (v) taking action to reduce the use (by producers) of non-recyclable packaging, (vi) banning recyclable waste from landfill and / or charging for the collection of non-recyclable waste, and (vii) introducing sanctions (including fines) to encourage greater compliance by householders.

20. Some respondents also identified scope for additional legislation in this area, including legislation relating to enforcement, requirements to use recycled materials in manufacturing, regulations targeting manufacturers and supermarkets, and the transposition into Scottish law of the EU 'Right to Repair' Directive.

Improving enforcement (Chapter 6)

21. Section 4 of the consultation paper discussed proposals for improving current powers of enforcement relating to waste crime and littering.

22. The vast majority of respondents thought there should be a legal power to seize vehicles suspected of waste crime, and that a new fixed penalty regime should be introduced for littering from vehicles.

23. Respondents also generally supported the introduction of new legislation to allow the registered keeper of a vehicle to be held responsible for any criminal offences (such as littering) committed from or in relation to that vehicle.

Assessing the impact of the Bill proposals (Chapter 7)

24. Section 5 of the consultation paper invited views on the possible impacts of the proposals on: (i) equalities groups, (ii) businesses and regulatory bodies, and (iii) the environment.

25. In relation to equalities groups, respondents thought that people with disabilities would be most affected by the legislative proposals, especially in relation to environmental charging. Other groups thought to be potentially affected by the proposals included those who are (i) older / frail, (ii) unwell, sick or in hospital, (iii) non-English speakers, (iv) people with mental health difficulties, learning disabilities or dementia, (v) people on low incomes or living in deprived circumstances, and (vi) people living in rural areas.

26. In relation to business and regulatory impacts, respondents thought the proposals would increase costs for all businesses and sectors - at least in the short term. There were concerns that small businesses and those in the food, drink, restaurant and retail sectors could be disproportionately affected by the proposals, and it was suggested that these kinds of businesses would need to be well supported through the transition phase as the proposals were implemented.

27. In relation to environmental impacts, respondents generally thought the impacts of the proposals would be positive, particularly in relation to (reducing) litter and landfill - but only 'if the proposals are implemented properly' or 'if reusable alternatives are available'.

Proposals for secondary legislation (Chapter 8)

28. Section 6 of the consultation paper invited views on two proposals for secondary legislation related to: (i) including circular economy and climate change obligations in the procurement strategies of public bodies, and (ii) increasing the minimum charge for single-use carrier bags from 5p to 10p.

29. Respondents were nearly unanimous in their views that procurement strategies of relevant public bodies should include consideration of activity which supports the circular economy and action on climate change.

30. A large majority also agreed that the minimum charge on single-use carrier bags should be increased from 5p to 10p in order to build on the positive impact on the environment of the initial 5p charge on these bags.

Other comments (Chapter 9)

31. The final question in the consultation invited any other comments about topics relevant to the subject of the consultation. The comments made were very wide-ranging in nature and the analysis and reporting focused on (i) respondents' general views about the Circular Economy Bill proposals, (ii) a brief summary of any additional proposals that respondents made in relation to the main areas addressed in the consultation (i.e. reduce / reuse / recycle, etc.), and (iii) perceived gaps in the proposals.

32. In terms of their overall views, respondents generally welcomed the proposals set out in the consultation, but also thought they did not go far enough. Respondents often suggested additional actions that the Scottish Government could take in relation to each of the main areas of work set out in the consultation paper. In addition, they perceived gaps in proposals relating to: (i) the restoration and regeneration of natural systems, (ii) economic development in a circular economy model, (iii) links to other internationally agreed standards, (iv) communication and education, and (v) action in particular sectors of the economy.



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