Zero waste regulations: policy statement

Our policy statement on zero waste regulations.

6. Thermal Treatment and Landfill Bans

6.1 Government policy on residual waste management

It is the intention of the Zero Waste Plan and Regulations to:

  • maximise the amounts of material available for recycling;
  • minimise the need for residual waste management capacity; and
  • ensure that only those materials that can't be recycled require some form of residual treatment/management.

There will of course always be a requirement for some form of residual waste treatment, but the measures being taken forward through the Zero Waste Regulations will significantly reduce both the volume and type of materials that will require residual waste treatment, e.g. incineration - the feedstock simply won't be available to feed large-scale plants or an extensive network of incinerators across Scotland.

6.2 Separately collected materials

As set out in the consultation, we intend to introduce a ban on separately collected dry recyclables and food waste going to landfill. This ban is universal and applies regardless of the source of the waste. Banning these materials from landfill does not mean that they must be removed from mixed/unsorted waste prior to disposal in landfill sites. The ban will however ensure that materials that have been collected for recycling remain available for recycling. Mandatory source segregation and the household waste services provided by waste collection authorities, supported by education and enforcement will, over time, remove the key recyclable materials from the unsorted waste stream. We have not included a specific requirement to pretreat residual waste prior to landfill to remove key recyclates as the ban on biodegradable waste going to landfill will drive the residual waste stream into some form of pre-treatment that will provide an opportunity to remove further recyclates.

The consultation also set out restrictions on inputs to thermal treatment facilities that meant that only residual waste could go to incineration. We intend to retain this type of restriction, but for clarity we intend to simply place a ban on separately collected materials going to incineration. To ensure that the ban can be implemented in a practicable manner, it will be it will be accompanied by a provision allowing rejects from sorting facilities to go for incineration.

We intend to introduce the ban on separately collected materials going to landfill and incineration in 2013, including the mixing of these materials. These measures will ensure that efforts put into recycling are not undermined later by poor management.

The lead in period before introducing these bans will give SEPA and Zero Waste Scotland time to:

  • promote and support source segregation in a co-operative manner;
  • communicate a strong regulatory position to stimulate activity; and
  • avoid issues where a lack of processing infrastructure means that separately collected materials ( e.g. plastics used in agriculture) go to landfill.

6.3 Pre-Treatment Prior to Incineration

To further avoid key recyclates that have not been separately collected being incinerated, we intend to include a provision requiring best available techniques to be used to remove marketable recyclate from residual municipal waste prior to incineration. This requirement will be introduced in a way that will allow the materials that are considered 'marketable' to be reviewed over time to reflect market trends and the viability of technology to extract materials. The initial focus will be on metals and dense plastics. The process of removing marketable recyclate can be done either on-site immediately before incineration or off-site with the residual element subsequently transported to the thermal treatment facility.

To avoid the need for transitional arrangements for existing EfW facilities, we intend to introduce the requirement to pre-treat at existing facilities from 2015. This will provide time for these facilities to set up the necessary pre-treatment arrangements, e.g. a simple MRF to extract these materials.

6.4 Ban on biodegradable material to landfill

As set out in the consultation on the draft regulations, the Scottish Government proposes to introduce a landfill ban on biodegradable material. The purpose of this landfill ban is:

  • to reduce the volumes of waste being landfilled by directing unsorted waste to pre-treatment.
  • to extract remaining resource value from the unsorted waste stream.
  • to protect the environment from the climate change impacts of landfilling biodegradable waste.

Under this framework, unsorted waste will need to be treated to (i) remove recyclable materials, (ii) create a waste stream that can be used to recover energy, e.g. refuse derived fuel and (iii) produce a stabilised fraction for landfill.

This ban, which is the first of its type in the UK, is a key component of our zero waste agenda and will help us meet our ambitious waste and carbon emissions targets. By providing policy certainty to industry, the ban would also act to drive investment in new waste infrastructure across Scotland in alternatives to landfill.

We have listened carefully to concerns raised around the scope of the ban on biodegradable waste going to landfill, the date on which the ban would come into force and on how the biodegradable component of waste would be measured.

Specific concerns were raised through the consultation that the ban on landfilling biodegradable material could leave certain industrial wastes without a technically or financially viable outlet. We intend therefore to limit the scope of the ban to residual municipal waste. This captures over 90% of the biodegradable waste currently landfilled but keeps landfill as a 'home of last resort' for certain industrial wastes. Residual municipal waste is what is commonly understood to be 'black bag' waste and is the fraction remaining after the source separation of municipal waste fractions, such as food and garden waste, plastic, paper and card, metals or glass.

For example, industrial wastes such as tannery sludges and fleshings, fish and other animal waste, water treatment sludges, sewage works screenings, scrubbers from thermal treatment facilities would not be covered by the scope of the ban and will be permitted to move direct to landfill without pre-treatment.

We intend to push back the ban on biodegradable (municipal) waste going to landfill to 2020. Providing a longer lead in time between separate collection and the requirement for alternative residual waste treatment will allow for recycling behaviours and practice to become more established and ultimately ensure that residual waste treatment is aligned to Scotland's future waste needs and not over specified.

A number of respondents presented views on how biodegradable content should be defined and measured. To ensure that we adopt a practicable approach, we propose to use the definitions contained in the 2 nd Draft of the Biowaste Directive ( for the threshold. This approach uses different thresholds for wastes which have undergone different treatment processes.

If residual municipal waste undergoes a mechanical biological treatment prior to landfilling, the achievement of either a Respiration Activity after four days ( AT4) below 10 mg O2/g dm or a Dynamic Respiration Index below 1,000 mg O2/kg VS/h shall deem that the treated residual municipal waste is no longer biodegradable waste in the meaning of Article 2(m) of Directive 1999/31/ EC (the Landfill Directive).

If residual municipal waste is incinerated prior to landfilling, the achievement of a Total Organic Carbon value of less than 5% shall deem that the incinerated residual municipal waste is no longer biodegradable waste in the meaning of Article 2(m) of Directive 1999/31/ EC (the Landfill Directive).


Email: Central Enquiries Unit

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