Independent review of the role of incineration in the waste hierarchy: Scottish Government response

Our initial response to Stop, Sort, Burn, Bury? - the recommendations of the independent review of the role of incineration in the waste hierarchy in Scotland.

3. Responses to recommendations

3.1 Improving waste reduction and recycling (recommendation 1)

Recommendation 1: Scottish Government should rapidly seek further reductions in the proportion of recyclable materials in the residual waste stream. It should do this in the forthcoming Route Map.

24. The Scottish Government accepts the recommendation to reduce the proportion of recyclable material in the residual waste stream.

25. A circular approach to our economy, where we move from a "take, make and dispose" model to one where we keep materials in use and minimise the amount of residual waste produced, is imperative if we are to tackle the climate and nature crises.

26. We have a range of measures already in place or in development that will make a significant contribution to achieving this goal, including: bans on problematic single-use plastic items; the implementation of Scotland's Deposit Return Scheme; reform of extended producer responsibility for packaging and our £70 million investment in local authority recycling infrastructure.

27. The consultation on our draft Route Map[7], published on 30 May 2022, also proposes a range of additional legislative and non-legislative interventions across the entire materials value chain, from reducing consumption to improving recycling, that will reduce waste and increase the proportion of waste recycled.

28. Proposals in the Route Map to reduce the proportion of recyclable materials in the residual waste include: promoting responsible consumption and production including through reducing consumption of single-use items, promoting product design and stewardship and mainstreaming reuse; reducing food waste from households and businesses, including through enhanced support for businesses and organisations and strengthening community food redistribution networks, including additional funding; and improving recycling from households and businesses, for example, by facilitating the co-design of high quality, high performing household recycling and reuse services and strengthening the monitoring and reporting framework.

29. This recommendation underlines the importance of a Route Map that takes bold action to reduce the proportion of recyclable materials in the residual waste stream and will inform the development of the final Route map.

3.2 Data and modelling (recommendations 2, 3 and 12)

Recommendation 2: The Scottish Government should develop better waste management data, especially around the composition of all types of waste and the arisings and fate of commercial and industrial waste, and improve its capacity to model future trends across the whole resource and waste management system. The forthcoming Route Map should set out how the Scottish Government will do this.

30. The Scottish Government accepts this recommendation. This is in line with the ongoing work to implement Scotland's 10-year waste data strategy (A strategy for improving waste data in Scotland, 2017). This strategy is overseen by a project board which is made up of representatives from The Scottish Government, Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and Zero Waste Scotland. Activities within the strategy to improve the quality and timeliness of data to support decision-making include: developing and implementing a digital waste tracking service in partnership with other UK governments and administrations, with an aim to implement the service in late 2023/early 2024; a new programme of household waste composition analysis by Zero Waste Scotland that is currently underway (2021-24); and planned publication of additional data by SEPA following its Waste Data Consultation.

31. In response to the Review, we will build on the activity currently underway both through the interventions set out in our Route Map consultation and new work to examine options to model future trends in the waste management system.

32. We have included proposals in our draft Route Map to conduct a national compositional study of waste from commercial premises and for the Scottish Government to work in partnership with other organisations to develop our modelling and forecasting capability. To support this, we are seeking views on research, data and evidence related to waste in the Route Map consultation.

33. Following consultation on our draft Route Map, we will also undertake a feasibility study to identify priorities and examine the options and associated costs to develop modelling of future trends across the whole resource and waste management system. The study will also take into account data improvements expected to be delivered by digital waste tracking.

34. The current timeliness and coverage limitations of our data may limit our short-term ability to robustly forecast future trends. The implementation of a digital waste tracking service is likely to have the largest impact on the quality and timeliness of waste data. The current go-live date for the service is 2023/24, depending on the transition needs of businesses, but given this recommendation, we will work with other governments and agencies to implement this as soon as possible.

35. A feasibility study would be required to determine the options for forecasting future trends, the associated costs of this modelling and any data gaps likely to remain. This feasibility study will need to consider carefully what our needs are and how the Scottish Government can capitalise on the improved quality of data from digital waste tracking while managing the increased quantity of data.

36. Undertaking a feasibility study after the consultation on the Route Map has been completed will allow the study to consider consultation responses. We intend to set out any further steps to improve forecasting in the final Route Map.

37. The timeline for this work could also impact our response to Recommendation 5, developing an indicative cap, since detailed modelling will be required to give a robust estimate of the ongoing capacity requirements.

Recommendation 3: Industry, local authorities and the Scottish Government should do more to make data around waste in general, and around incineration in particular, more transparent and accessible for all stakeholders. This should be done alongside development and implementation of the Route Map.

38. The Scottish Government accepts this recommendation, which is in line with the ongoing work to implement Scotland's 10-year waste data strategy (A strategy for improving waste data in Scotland, 2017). Activities include exploring different ways to share and present waste data so that it is accessible to a range of audiences – for example, the planned publication of additional data by SEPA following its Waste Data Consultation.

39. In light of this recommendation, the consultations on our Circular Economy Bill and the development of our Route Map propose to strengthen the monitoring and reporting framework for local authority waste services by 2025 and explore the introduction of a requirement on local authorities to report publicly on end destination of household recycling collected. In the meantime, we will work with local authorities and SEPA to explore how to improve the transparency and accessibility of data for stakeholders.

40. With the recommendation highlighting the need for accessible data around incineration in particular, we will also work with SEPA and the waste industry to consider what reporting information on incineration facilities and other waste sites can be made available and how to make this data as accessible as possible. This reporting information includes data on carbon emissions and other pollutants.

Recommendation 12: The Scottish Government should report greenhouse gas emissions from incineration separately from other energy-related emissions as soon as possible, ideally from the 2021 data onwards.

41. We accept this recommendation. Official Statistics on Scottish greenhouse gas emissions are published annually and used to monitor progress towards Scotland's statutory emissions reduction targets. These statistics are based on a disaggregation of the UK Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Inventory, which is overseen by the UK Government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and compiled in line with international scientific guidance.

42. At the time of writing, the UK Inventory does not allow for the isolation of data for emissions from waste incineration plants as opposed to other energy sector emissions. Decisions around the UK Inventory are a matter for BEIS and are informed by the UK National Inventory Steering Committee, which includes representation from Scottish Government officials.

43. We will work with BEIS and the UK National Inventory Steering Committee to explore the potential to break down our GHG inventory reporting to provide a separate Energy from Waste source within our future publications. However, given the time required to develop a new methodology, it is unlikely that this will be ready in time for our next publication using 2021 data.

3.3 Capacity and strategic planning (recommendations 4, 5 and 11)

Recommendation 4: Effective immediately, the Scottish Government should ensure that no further planning permission (i.e. beyond that already in place) is granted to incineration infrastructure within the scope of this Review unless balanced by an equal or greater closure of capacity. The only exceptions to this should be those outlined in Recommendation 10.

44. The Scottish Government accepts this recommendation while remaining conscious of relevant statutory obligations which must apply to all planning decisions.

45. The Review makes it clear that Scotland does not need additional municipal waste incineration facilities to treat our unavoidable and unrecyclable municipal residual waste beyond those for which planning permission has already been granted, with limited exceptions and mindful that there will be a short-term capacity gap in 2025.

46. The statutory decision-making framework for planning applications requires that all relevant matters are considered, in the individual circumstances of each case, before deciding whether to grant or refuse planning permission. We will work within existing statutory and other frameworks to set out clearly that the Scottish Government does not support the development of further municipal waste incineration capacity in Scotland, with very limited exceptions. New national planning policy will be introduced through National Planning Framework 4, which will be presented to the Scottish Parliament for approval later this year.

47. In light of the Review's findings on capacity, we will keep in place the Energy from Waste Notification Direction[8], which had previously been made for a temporary period during the review. This requires planning authorities to alert Scottish Ministers of new planning applications that involve incineration facilities and to notify Scottish Ministers if they are minded to grant planning permission for incineration facilities.

Recommendation 5: As part of an overall strategic approach to planning and deploying waste management capacity (see Recommendation 11), the Scottish Government should develop an indicative cap that declines over time for the amount of residual waste treatment needed as Scotland transitions towards a fully circular economy.

48. The Scottish Government accepts this recommendation and we will develop an indicative cap to support planning discussions and decisions.

49. It is important that any indicative cap is as robust as possible and developing such a cap is likely to be a significant piece of work. Dr Church acknowledged that this would require careful consideration and further analysis, including the need to consider essential 'buffer' capacity/headroom /manage risks or unintended consequences. Recommendation 2 highlights the challenges around the quality and timeliness of waste data which will need to be overcome to ensure any indicative cap is as robust as possible.

50. Our consultation on the development of a Route Map sets out a proposal to develop a Residual Waste Plan by 2024 to set the strategic direction for management of residual waste to 2045 and to bring this area in-line with net zero targets.

51. As part of this proposed Residual Waste Plan and strategic direction setting, the Scottish Government will explore options to build upon improvements in data, for example through the delivery of the digital waste tracking service, and a feasibility study on modelling options (see response to recommendation 3) to develop an indicative cap for the amount of residual waste treatment capacity required.

Recommendation 11: Scottish Government and local authorities should work with industry to develop a strategic approach to planning and deploying waste collection, reprocessing and management facilities by the end of 2023, which takes account of the key issues. The Scottish Government should consider how best to incorporate this into the proposed fourth National Planning Framework.

52. We accept this recommendation, which is well-aligned with our proposal to develop a Residual Waste Plan by 2024, set out in our Route Map consultation. The Residual Waste Plan aims to set the strategic direction for the management of residual waste to 2045 and to bring this area in line with net zero targets.

53. As a result of the Review, we will consider how this strategic approach for residual waste infrastructure interacts with and could be extended to include key issues across waste collection and reprocessing infrastructure. We will also take opportunities to embed a strategic approach to infrastructure in any interventions taken forward in our Route Map following consultation. For example, our Route Map consultation sets out a proposal to facilitate the co-design of high-quality, high-performing household recycling and reuse services by the end of 2023, working with service operators and users. This will require consideration of the infrastructure required to deliver high-performing services and investigation of the potential for further collaboration and partnerships between multiple authorities on service provision to achieve economies of scale.

54. We will also consider how best to implement this strategic approach. For example, it may be more appropriate to incorporate this approach into more dynamic waste management guidance, rather than the National Planning Framework which is an overarching longer-term strategy.

3.4 Preparation for the landfill ban (recommendations 6, 7 and 10)

Recommendation 6: When negotiating contracts for residual waste management treatment, local authorities should specifically address the risks of lock-in and ensure those contracts are aligned with meeting Scotland's current and future targets on resource and waste management.

Recommendation 7: The most feasible treatment options to manage Scotland's residual waste are incineration, landfill and export of waste. Scottish Government should work with local authorities to ensure they have a solution to manage their residual waste in 2025 based on this.

Recommendation 10: Scottish Government should urgently work with local authorities in remote and rural areas of Scotland without a settled residual waste management solution to meet the Ban to explore options that might, if fully justified, lead to the creation of a small amount of additional capacity.

55. The Scottish Government accepts these recommendations. Through Zero Waste Scotland, we are working closely with local authorities to support those that do not currently have solutions to the forthcoming ban on landfilling biodegradable municipal waste in 2025. The support includes facilitating collaborative procurement and providing technical, procurement and legal support for local authorities.

56. Through this collaborative procurement, we are encouraging local authorities to ensure contracts take into account Scotland's resource and waste ambitions and reduce the risk of lock-in effects.

57. Recommendation 10 highlights that local authorities with remote and rural communities may face particular challenges and opportunities in managing their residual waste. With Zero Waste Scotland, we have established a specific Highlands and Islands group involving relevant local authorities and will continue to work through this, and with individual authorities, to support the procurement of residual waste management options.

3.5 Community engagement (recommendations 8 and 9)

Recommendation 8: As part of the strategic approach referred to in Recommendation 11, Scottish Government and Local Authorities should ensure that adequate time and resource is dedicated to local and community engagement.

Recommendation 9: Operators of all residual waste treatment facilities should work to significantly strengthen community engagement and trust before, during and after development. Clear guidelines for authentic and effective community engagement should be co-produced by Scottish Government with community groups and local authorities by the end of 2023.

58. The Scottish Government accepts these recommendations. We will facilitate the co-production of guidelines for effective community engagement by the end of 2023. These guidelines will be developed in collaboration with community groups and local authorities and will build on examples of best practices identified through collaboration with industry. The detailed scope of the guidelines will be determined through a co-production process which we expect to include consideration of those elements identified in the review, including:

  • Transparency in construction processes and operations.
  • Signposting to statutory and best practice arrangements on community engagement through the planning process.
  • The accessibility of data around a plant's operations, including emissions data.
  • Ensuring local voices are heard at every stage of the process.
  • Engaging with local concerns, providing evidence and reassurance relating to impacts of waste management without being misleading or engaging in 'greenwashing'.

59. In developing this guidance, we will work with local authorities and community groups to identify opportunities to ensure these groups can and know how to effectively engage with waste planning processes. We will co-produce guidance and look to local authorities and industry to firmly embed this guidance. If that doesn't have the desired effect, we will look at options to make the guidance statutory.

3.6 Decarbonisation (recommendation 13 and 14)

Recommendation 13: (Provisional) The Scottish Government should immediately strengthen existing requirements for pre-treatment and work with local authorities and industry to apply them to all existing and future incineration facilities to remove as much recyclable material as feasible, with a particular focus on plastics.

Recommendation 14: (Provisional) The Scottish Government and local authorities should continue to work with industry to deploy combined heat and power for as many existing incineration facilities as possible.

60. We will respond to these recommendations in full once the further work on options to decarbonise residual waste infrastructure has concluded. However, we know, and the Review has confirmed, that rapid progress is needed to ensure progress towards our Net Zero Ambitions. That is why we have proposed actions to restrict the carbon impacts of incineration in the consultation on our draft Route Map.

61. Our Route Map consultation sets out a proposal for the Scottish Government to facilitate the development of a sector-led plan by 2024 to restrict the carbon impacts of incineration. This includes consideration of how to ensure energy from waste plants are more efficient, for example, through the deployment of combined heat and power.

62. The consultation on the Route map also proposes to work with the waste and resources sector to accelerate the reduction of the carbon impacts of existing incineration plants. We will begin by focusing on measures to divert the highest carbon-emitting materials from incineration, such as plastics.

63. The final version of the Route Map will consider the outputs from the further work on options to decarbonise residual waste infrastructure, commissioned by the Review.



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