Implementation of the Scottish Government's Zero Waste Policy is a Step Closer


The Scottish Government’s Zero Waste policy has moved a step closer to implementation with the publication of a Policy Statement on the forthcoming Zero Waste (Scotland) Regulations.

While some of the key dates for implementation of the policy have been moved, it will still bring into force more challenging targets for the industry and local authorities than those applying south of the border.


Scotland’s Zero Waste Plan was published in June 2010. It establishes strategic waste policies, sets ambitious targets (including the recycling of 70% of Scotland’s waste by 2025 and the introduction of a carbon metric to target recycling towards more carbon-intensive materials) and describes a range of measures necessary to achieve these objectives. The measures include amendment of legislation governing waste collection, treatment and disposal. Although the final form of the Regulations is yet to be published, the Statement sets out the decisions that will underpin the Regulations to be laid before the Scottish Parliament in December this year.

The Policy Statement

The Policy Statement does not fundamentally alter the legislative changes suggested by the draft Regulations. The legislative changes will

require all waste producers (except householders) to present key recyclable materials for collection separately from all other wastes (to be implemented by the end of 2013);
require food producers, retailers, distributors and others to present waste food for collection separately from all other wastes (by the end of 2013, but 2015 for small businesses);
require Councils to take all technically, environmentally and economically practicable measures to provide separate household collection services for key recyclable materials (by the end of 2013);
require Councils to introduce food waste collection services to households (to be initiated by the end of 2013 and fully rolled out by the end of 2015);
require waste carriers to collect and carry key recyclable materials separately from other wastes (by the end of 2013);
prohibit the mixing of separately collected wastes with other waste where this hinders recycling (by the end of 2013);
ban separately collected materials going to landfill or incineration (by the end of 2013); and
ban biodegradable municipal waste going to landfill (by the end of 2020).

Changes in Approach

The Statement recognises that successful implementation of these measures requires an adequate lead in time to enable Councils, the waste management industry, businesses and householders to adapt to the changes. The main change from the consultation on the draft Regulations is a revised implementation timetable delaying the requirement for source segregation of food waste by small businesses to the end of 2015 (previously 2013), providing a two-year roll out period for household food waste collection, and introducing the ban on landfilling of biodegradable waste in 2020 (previously 2017).

However the Statement includes some new or amended proposals:

the restriction on waste materials which may be incinerated has been simplified to a ban on separately collected materials. However, removal of defined marketable recyclates from municipal waste will be required prior to incineration, with an initial focus on metals and dense plastics (from commencement of the Regulations for new facilities, by the end of 2015 for existing facilities);
the ban on landfilling of biodegradable materials will apply only to municipal waste, reflecting concern that unless landfilled certain industrial biodegradable wastes would have no viable outlet;
the permissible total organic content of biodegradable municipal waste sent to landfill has been increased from 3 to 5%;
a ban on non-domestic use of food waste disposal units to macerate food and dispose of it through the sewer system, so avoiding the separate food waste collection requirements;
Councils are to be allowed to commingle food and garden waste where equivalent environmental benefits to separate collection can be achieved; and
Councils will have to publish reports on how waste is managed in their area.

In addition, the Scottish Government has sought to provide clarity on a relaxation in the draft Regulations, which restricts the obligation to provide a separate food waste collection where it is not technically, environmentally or economically practicable. The relaxation will be based on population density and travel distance between towns by reference to the Scottish Government urban/rural classification. In respect of high-density areas, the legislative requirement will also limit the collection of separate food waste to properties which currently provide their own bins for collection.

Commingling of Recyclates

The Scottish Government has taken a slightly different line to Defra on whether commingling recyclables should count towards the separate collection required by the revised Waste Framework Directive. The policy document states that commingling will be allowed, but only if it meets the requirements of the waste hierarchy and maintains quality standards to waste separately collected at the kerbside. The Government will also be able to issue quality standards for recycling - preferably on a voluntary basis, but potentially on a statutory footing “if it is believed intervention is needed to drive improvements” (a step beyond the measures envisaged in Defra's review of English policy).


The Regulations are to be laid before the Scottish Parliament later this year. Assuming they are passed the first significant legislative changes will come into force in 2013.