Since the publication of its 2016 circular economy strategy Making Things Last: Scotland's first circular economy strategy, Scotland has shown commitment in promoting a transition to a circular economy. This has been evidenced by the introduction of measures looking to tackle single use carrier bags and legislatives proposals that will see Scotland become the first part of the UK to introduce a deposit return scheme for drinks containers. In November, the Scottish government ramped up these efforts by also revealing proposals for a circular economy bill, inviting views through a public consultation.

Following engagement with external stakeholders including discussions with colleagues at Scottish Environment Link and the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management,as well as several IEMA members and the IEMA Circular Economy Network steering group, with expertise on the circular economy, IEMA submitted its own response to the Scottish government’s consultation.

Overall, IEMA welcomed the proposals set out by the Scottish Government to help transition to a circular economy. However, despite the potential of the measures to have a positive environmental impact, IEMA felt that the restricted focus on sustainable waste management solutions (as laid out in the proposals) would not enable a complete transformation to the circular economy in Scotland.

As IEMA noted in its 2014 report From Waste to Resources – Implementing Sustainable Resource Management in Your Business (the Waste to Resources Report) resource efficiency is key to making the most of material resources while minimising the production of waste. Following the introduction of the UK Environment Bill, the UK government made it clear that resource efficiency puts sustainability at the heart of the economic model (Part 3, sections 47 to 48), providing the power for the relevant national authority to make regulations about the provision of resource efficiency information and resource efficiency requirements including the expected life of the product, which aspects of the product’s design affect its expected life or even whether the product could be upgraded (Schedules 7 and 8). These provisions in tandem with the need to integrate a corporate duty of care for the environment and the proposed reforms under the Resources & Waste Strategy on areas such as the UK Packaging Producer Responsibility System have the potential to shift the focus from consumers to producers and provide a real incentive to tackle these issues. The proposals for a Scottish Circular Economy bill are currently silent on resource efficiency and therefore any future secondary legislation should look to integrate these perspectives, particularly as low cost resource efficiency actions making up 80% of a £23bn a year potential saving available to UK business.Below are listed some of the other specific recommendations set out in our response:


  • To shift the focus away from waste and cut to the heart of the issue, IEMA aligns with the Aldersgate Group, in stressing the importance of ambitious product standards that incentivise greater resource efficiency in product design. We would call on any future proposal for legislation on the circular economy to embed similar standards to support the transition of manufacturing to a more circular approach.
  • To ensure that organisations, be they in Scotland or elsewhere across the UK, are given the tools to better understand the benefit of fully utilising resources across their supply chain, IEMA have suggested that resource utilisation could be set against economic indicators. Instead of solely focusing on waste minimisation, these indicators would help to showcase the business case for minimising resource use while promoting resource productivity within key sectors (according to WRAP, UK hotels produce 289,700 tonne of waste each year), which are key areas for enabling resource effective gains.
  • To support a UK-aligned Extended Producer Responsibility scheme on packaging, it is important for Scottish Government to be inscribed into any proposal for a Scottish Circular Economy Bill. Once inscribed into legislation, in accordance with the polluter pays principle, the EPR and any fiscal measure such as a plastic tax should help to stimulate the circular economy to become more mainstream, which in turn will help provide additional opportunities for organisations and consumers to reduce their environmental impact.
  • We align with Scottish Environment Link in their submission response that a proposed UK plastics tax could help to further enhance the impact of measures to incentivise recycled content in new goods. Funds raised by a tax should directly support the extensive infrastructure investments needed to promote domestic recycling and reprocessing across the UK, including in Scotland and within the other devolved administrations’ areas.
  • To avoid the risk of applying a double charge to the same items, IEMA have called on the Scottish government to carry out further impact assessments. Currently the proposal recommends the introduction of environmental charging on different items such as plastic straws or beverage stirrers. Although these could have a beneficial impact on the environment, IEMA have advised the Government to cautiously assess which charging option it should implement as single-use disposable beverage cups could equally be caught by the considered Extended Producer Responsibility scheme, fall under the proposed Scottish Deposit Return Scheme, or even qualify for a plastic tax.
  • Finally, looking ahead and to ensure consistency in approaches, IEMA have asked the Scottish government to clarify the timeline for implementation of the bill and how this interacts with the timeline for implementation of the EU single use plastics directive, the Scottish Deposit Return Scheme legislation, and the wider timeline for UK -aligned Extended Producer Responsibility Schemes.

The IEMA Circular Economy network steering group will continue to engage with members as the Scottish government further develops its proposed Circular Economy Bill in 2020. 

Updates on the next Scottish CE Bill consultation and future consultations by the UK government on the Resources and Waste Strategy will be released in due course.

In the meantime, should you wish to receive further updates on IEMA activity related to the circular economy then please email cenetwork@iema.net.

 

Further reading:

IEMA consultation responses on Resources and Waste Strategy – click here

IEMA consultation response on Scottish proposals for Circular Economy Bill – click here

IEMA engagement on UK Environment Bill – click here


About the Author

Marc Jourdan is a Policy & Engagement Lead for IEMA. He leads IEMA’s work on the circular economy and social sustainability issues. He has an LLM in Environmental Law and over 9 years’ experience specialising in sustainability issues. Marc combines his legal skills with the commercial acumen he developed as a corporate lawyer to support members in both the private and the public sector on sustainability matters.