3. The Waste Hierarchy and quality recyclables
3.1 The Waste Hierarchy
The Waste Hierarchy (Figure 1) is a key concept in waste management. Driving waste management up the waste hierarchy is central to the development of sustainable waste management in Scotland and the drive to a zero waste society.
High quality recyclable materials are needed to drive waste up the waste hierarchy. Without quality materials, there is a risk that materials are down-cycled ( e.g. glass to aggregate rather than back to glass) and the true resource value of the materials is lost. The quality of recyclables is determined by decisions taken at each stage of recycling, from collection and transport to sorting and treatment.
Reasons to increase the quality of recyclables collected include:
- there is a demand for it from reprocessors;
- it commands a higher market price;
- higher quality recyclate is more likely to be turned into higher quality products;
- there is a greater chance it will be recycled in Scotland, supporting the local economy and insulating industry from global fluctuations and unpredictable future quality demands.
Figure 1 - The Waste Hierarchy
The Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2011, make it the duty of "any person who produces, keeps or manages waste (…) to take all such measures as reasonable in the circumstances to apply the waste hierarchy". A similar requirement to take account of the waste hierarchy has been placed on Local Authorities through the Waste Management Licensing (Scotland) Regulations 2011.
To supplement this existing duty it is the Scottish Government's intention to issue guidance on the waste hierarchy. The guidance, which will be developed in close consultation with industry, will include information on:
- what the waste hierarchy means in practice;
- how it should be applied to a range of common materials and products;
- what public bodies and businesses need to do to apply the waste hierarchy.
An example of how information might be presented is provided in Figure 2.
Figure 2 Example of how guidance on the waste hierarchy might be presented
The European Commission has made it clear that under the revised Waste Framework Directive ( rWFD), co-mingling of recyclable materials will only be permitted where it meets the necessary quality standards for the relevant recycling sector and promotes high quality recycling. Indeed, the recent draft guidance from the Commission on the interpretation of key provisions of the rWFD states:
"co-mingled collection of single waste streams may be accepted as a derogation from the requirement for separate collection, but the benchmark of "high quality recycling" of separately collected single waste streams has to be regarded; only if subsequent separation can achieve high quality recycling similar to that achieved with separate collection, co-mingling is acceptable against Article 11 of the rWFD and the principles of the waste hierarchy".
We intend to stipulate in the regulations that co-mingling of dry recyclables will only be permitted where the hierarchy is not undermined ( e.g. glass separated for re-melt) and the outputs from the materials recycling facility ( MRF) are of comparable quality to that collected separately at kerbside.
To further promote high quality recyclables, we intend to include provision in the Regulations to enable Scottish Ministers to issue quality standards (or codes of practice) for recycling. This provision would allow Scottish Ministers to introduce statutory based standards if it is believed intervention is needed to drive improvements. The preference is for industry to work with local authorities, and Zero Waste Scotland, to deliver such standards, thus avoiding the need to introduce statutory measures.
In collaboration with the recycling sector, Zero Waste Scotland has begun work to develop codes of practice that will help promote quality inputs and outputs from MRFs.
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