Zero waste regulations: policy statement

Our policy statement on zero waste regulations.

1. Introduction

1.1 Purpose

The Scottish Government consulted on the draft Zero Waste (Scotland) Regulations (the Regulations) in early 2011 [1]. In reply to this consultation, and ongoing dialogue with stakeholders, this paper sets out the decisions that will underpin the final form of the regulations that will be laid before the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Government is not consulting on the positions set out in this paper as there has already been extensive consultation on the policy. Comments are however sought on the draft Business Regulatory Impact Assessment ( BRIA) that accompanies this policy statement.

1.2 Scotland's journey towards zero waste

We all produce waste; by throwing things away and, indirectly, through the waste produced during the manufacture of the goods and services we consume. However, one person's waste is another person's resource. In this context, waste can drive economic activity - whether through recycling and energy recovery or through more efficient use of resources.

In 2009 Scotland produced 17.11 million tonnes of waste. Although progress is being made to reduce waste arisings and to recycle key materials, the resource value of much of Scotland's waste remains untapped: it is estimated that there is over £100million worth of untapped resources in household waste alone, and this figure is set rise as the value of discarded materials increase.

The Scottish Government's Zero Waste Plan [2], launched in June 2010, set out actions to deliver important changes to how Scotland treats and manages waste. The plan is an economic strategy and a resource strategy - not simply a waste strategy. It aims to maximise the value of all the material resources we use in our economy, helping to create new business opportunities as well as savings to existing businesses and local authorities in how they manage waste. To support this aim, the plan includes ambitious recycling targets, including a 70% recycling rate for household and all other waste streams by 2025.

Delivering these changes has the potential to bring about significant benefits to Scotland's economy and environment, such as:

  • supporting and expanding Scotland's recycling industry will help reduce our demand for expensive virgin materials while also creating new opportunities for economic growth and jobs in the recycling sector;
  • replacing our reliance on landfill through increased recycling will substantially reduce methane emissions from landfill, a greenhouse gas 24 times more potent than carbon dioxide;
  • treating food waste at anaerobic digestion facilitates will allow us to harness green energy and produce high quality fertilisers;

Ultimately, the Zero Waste Plan aims to establish a policy and regulatory framework that will allow businesses and the Scottish economy to benefit from the resource value of waste in a way that adds long term value to Scotland's economy whilst tackling fundamental waste and resource issues in the short term.

1.3 The Zero Waste Regulations

Waste management is a service upon which businesses and households across Scotland depend. The Regulations will support delivery of the Government's zero waste agenda and targets while also ensuring that the minimum level of service on offer is better than that of today.

The historic focus of waste management has been to divert material from landfill; an outcome very much in line with the old European Waste Framework Directive. Landfill tax has provided a financial incentive to avoid landfill and meet this outcome.

For source segregated waste streams, this has often meant that they have gone on to be recycled. Mixed waste (waste from which recyclable materials have not removed at source) presents a different set of challenges. The market has often responded to these challenges by offering residual waste treatment facilities, which tend to be recovery operations like incineration and Mechanical and Biological Treatment. Like all large infrastructure, such plants have long operational life spans and although this type of infrastructure is needed, an overreliance on this approach to managing Scotland's waste would trap key materials within the mixed waste, hindering opportunities to capture and recycle high quality materials.

To drive forward changes to how waste is managed in Scotland, the Regulations introduce a series of regulatory measures to:

  • maximise the quantity and quality of materials available for recycling and minimise the need for residual waste treatment capacity;
  • move residual waste management up the waste hierarchy so as to extract resource value from those materials we can't recycle;
  • create the market certainty needed to support investment by businesses in the recycling, materials reprocessing and waste management sector;
  • improve public confidence in recycling to help reaffirm Scotland's position as a recycling nation.

A key consideration in reviewing the draft regulations has been creating a regulatory framework that minimises, as far as possible, short term financial impacts ( e.g. investment in new equipment and processes) without hindering opportunities for longer term financial savings or economic opportunities.

The Regulations are part of a suite of actions under the Zero Waste Plan. Other important actions include the development of a waste prevention strategy and actions to promote change in attitude and behaviour towards waste.


Email: Central Enquiries Unit

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