A Guide to Scotland’s Waste Plan
Part of the Scottish government’s devolved powers is its right to legislate over waste management. Inspired to do things differently to the rest of the United Kingdom, Holyrood has adopted a sweeping waste plan that aims to make Scotland a zero waste economy as soon as is practicable.
The most notable and immediate policy was to be one of the first parts of the British Isles to introduce a charge for single-use plastic bags in shops in order to cut down on the hundreds of millions which find their way to landfill every year.
However, plastic bags are just one part of a larger, overarching scheme, in which waste management laws are now significantly different to the rest of the UK.
Scotland produces more than 20 million tonnes of waste every year. Scotland has committed itself to zero waste, meaning encouraging recycling and reducing the traditional reliance of waste in landfill. If this means doing so via legislation, then they now have the powers to do so.
The Scottish Parliament says that “all waste is seen as a resource, and valuable resources are not disposed of in landfills”. Furthermore most waste should be sorted, leaving only limited amounts to be disposed of in an unsustainable manner.
For Scottish businesses (with exceptions for some in more remote areas) this means a newly-introduced regulation in which they are obliged to recycle as much waste as is reasonably practical. This means – for example – that companies and organisations must now separate their recyclable waste, or come to some arrangement with their waste management operator to do this for them. While this might increase handling costs, it’s hoped this will be offset by a corresponding saving in Landfill Taxes.
Among other plans as part of Scotland’s waste policy, there’s the ambition to raise recycling rates in Scotland to 70% by 2025 (the UK average is currently around 44%); landfill bans on specific waste types; separate collections of specific waste types such as food and glass to avoid cross-contamination and increasing recycling rates; and encouraging greater reuse opportunities by restricting energy recovery.
It’s an ambitious plan, and it means that waste management companies need to work in concert with central Scottish government, local authorities and businesses to achieve their aims. But as the likes of the Netherlands have proved – a zero waste economy is possible in a smaller nation.
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