Recycling remit

9th November 2013


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  • Business & Industry ,
  • Waste ,
  • Recycling ,
  • Environment agencies



Adrian Bond on Scotland's groundbreaking new waste legislation and the role of Sepa in ensuring compliance

With less than two months until the new Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012 take effect, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) is working with organisations to explain the changes – highlighting in particular the requirement to recycle, and to drive home the importance of preparation and compliance.

In 2010, the Scottish government set out a new vision to shape the country’s approach to waste. The Zero waste plan recognises that every item and material we use, either natural or manufactured, is a resource with value. It is an economic and resource strategy – not simply a waste strategy.

A critical step in this journey is the introduction of the 2012 Waste Regulations, which establish a legal duty on every business, regardless of size, to separate metal, plastic, paper, card and glass for recycling from 1 January 2014, as well as a ban on these separated materials being sent to landfill or incinerators.

For the first time, a clear focus has also been placed on the collection and treatment of food waste; organisations producing more than 50kgs of food waste a week in urban areas will be expected to incorporate dedicated waste bins into their recycling schemes.

Business owners across Scotland will be expected to implement recycling programmes in their premises and train staff to segregate recyclable materials. While full segregation into separate bins produces the highest quality material, Sepa recognises this may not be possible in every case. Collections of mixed recyclables will therefore still be permitted provided they are not mixed with non-recyclable or contaminating wastes, and are sorted to a high standard.

The environmental benefits of recycling have long been established, but new data shows that Scotland’s waste in 2011 generated 14 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. Actions outlined in the Zero waste plan are expected to reduce CO2 from waste by 22% by 2025.

The long-term economic gains of the Regulations are also compelling. Scotland currently spends £95 million on landfill taxes to dispose of recyclable materials worth approximately £97 million. More broadly, there are potentially £2.9 billion of savings to Scottish businesses and organisations from straightforward resource efficiency measures.

Enforcing change

Sepa’s initial approach to enforcement focuses on raising awareness and providing guidance on compliance. To ensure that waste producers are aware of their new legal duties, Sepa, in partnership with agencies including Zero Waste Scotland, has been engaging with businesses, the public sector and the waste industry to provide information, signpost support and encourage discussion of the 2012 Regulations.

Hundreds of firms have turned out for briefings and seminars and more than 120,000 flyers have been distributed to raise awareness with small retailers. One-to-one engagement has also been picking up, with Sepa working with supermarkets, shopping centres, cinemas, fast-food restaurants, hotel chains and the British Army.

Sepa’s first focus following the 1 January 2014 deadline will be on advice and support; however, high impact and persistent offenders will be tackled more robustly. The regulator has been working with each of Scotland’s 32 local authorities to develop a consistent approach to enforcement. Ongoing engagement with environmental health teams, trade waste inspectors and waste managers has been invaluable in creating targeted compliance campaigns. A key target area is food waste. Sepa is assessing responses from questionnaires sent out to 400 large food waste producers and this will be used to direct compliance activity in the coming months.

The regulator will also focus on waste collectors that persist in offering single mixed collection services with no segregation of recyclables. In October, it hosted an event for 35 waste companies to discuss the practicalities of the Regulations and develop a common understanding of what constitutes a compliant service.

The agency is confident that each small action taken by producers and service providers in preparation for 1 January 2014 will add up to a real step change in the way resources are managed in Scotland. Confidence in the sector is growing, as recycling becomes a more mainstream part of life. The new Regulations will help turn Scotland’s plan into real action – zero waste is happening right now.

For more information on the Regulations email:

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