Prior to the Zero Waste Plan, the major share of Scotland’s 17.11 million tonnes of produced waste in 2009 remained unutilised. Considering household waste alone, an equivalent of over £100million of resource value remained untapped. By launching the Zero Waste Plan in 2010, the Scottish Government created the foundation of the country’s future waste policy. The Zero Waste Plan is a stable framework equipped with a long-term Mission and Vision, setting out the strategic goals as well as immediate priorities until 2020. With the ultimate objective to guide the country towards a Zero Waste society, the Zero Waste Plan should not be understood as a mere waste management scheme but instead as a comprehensive economic and resource management strategy. The Plan sets specific targets to significantly increase Scotland’s recycling rates, limits the amount of landfill waste, bans specific waste types, sets new standards for waste segregation and collection and restricts the energy input from waste facilities.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency, the Scottish Government and the Zero Waste Scotland programme are in close collaboration to achieve the Zero Waste Plan’s objectives and targets. In general, the Scottish Government envisions the future with a Zero Waste society as a state “where waste is seen as a valuable resource, valuable materials are not disposed of in landfills, and most waste is sorted for recycling, leaving only limited amounts to be treated” (Scottish Government 2010).
- The Zero Waste Plan was launched by the Scottish Government in 2010. It seeks to lay the foundation for a social transformation towards a zero waste society, or as the Scottish Government puts it, as a future, “where waste is seen as a valuable resource, valuable materials are not disposed of in landfills, and most waste is sorted for recycling, leaving only limited amounts to be treated” (Scottish Government 2010).
- Key features of the Scottish Zero Waste Plan are:- 70% recycling and a maximum of 5% to landfill by 2025 for all Scotland’s waste- Landfill bans for specific waste types- Source segregation and separate collection of specific waste types- Restrictions on inputs to energy from waste facilities
- As guiding principles, the Scotland Zero Waste Plan is equipped with a mission and a vision that provides the basis for any waste-policy related activity:Mission: To achieve a zero waste Scotland, where we make the most efficient use of resources by minimising Scotland’s demand on primary resources, and maximising the reuse, recycling and recovery of resources instead of treating them as waste. Vision: This vision describes a Scotland where resource use is minimised, valuable resources are not disposed of in landfills, and most waste is sorted into separate streams for reprocessing, leaving only limited amounts of waste to go to residual waste treatment, including energy from waste facilities.
- For its implementation, the Scottish Government launched the delivery programme Zero Waste Scotland and adopted two statutory measures supporting the Zero Waste Plan’s implementation in 2012: the Waste (Scotland) Regulation 2012 and the Environmental Protection (Duty of Care) (Scotland) Regulation 2012.
- The Zero Waste Plan constitutes a roadmap for a progressive waste reduction, disposal and recycling strategy. Achieving the proposed targets would create significant benefits for the Scottish economy and the environment:- generating economic growth and job opportunities in the recycling sector by supporting and expanding the recycling industry; at the same time, extensive recycling reduces the overall demand for virgin materials- reducing methane emissions from landfills substantially through increased recycling, which would largely replace the landfilling of waste- production of green electricity and high quality fertilisers from food waste through anaerobic digestion- creation of benefits from the resource value of waste on the long-term adding new opportunities to Scottish businesses and the economy, while generating short term solutions for waste and resource issues
Scotland’s Zero Waste Plan 2010 [click]
Several other Scottish policies aim at the management and reduction of waste, as well as resource efficiency:
- Scotland’s Circular Economy Strategy ‘Making Things Last’ launched in February 2016. The strategy sets out our priorities to influence design, repair, reuse, remanufacture, recycling and, importantly, waste prevention.
- The Resource Efficient Scotland programme offering free advice and support to increase resource efficiency by saving and reducing water, energy, raw material and waste
- The Environmental Protection (Duty of Care) (Scotland) Regulations 2014
- The Waste Scotland Regulation 2005, 2011, 2012, 2014
- The Waste Management Licensing (Scotland) Regulations 2011
- The Waste Batteries (Scotland) Regulation 2009
- The Landfill (Scotland) Regulations 2003, Amendment Regulation 2003 & 2013
- Environment Act 1995
- Environmental Protection Act 1990
For further information on waste-related legislation in Scotland click here.
Scotland’s Zero Waste Plan comprises a waste policy which is central to the environmental protection and responsible utilisation of resources in the future Scotland. As a roadmap for progressive waste reduction, recycling, recovery, and disposal strategy, the plan paves the way towards a more sustainable future.
The planned reductions of landfill disposal will also reduce the amount of methane emissions significantly, a greenhouse gas with a 25 times greater impact on climate change than CO2 over a time frame of 100 years. Therefore, Scotland’s Zero Waste Plan also contributes in mitigating climate change.
Achieving the long term vision of a Zero Waste society would also generate social and economic benefits. For instance, the expansion of the recycling industry creates new job opportunities, as well as the development and implementation of innovative business ideas. Besides reducing substantial amounts of waste and increasing recycling, the Scottish Zero Waste Plan also stimulates more sustainable product development and design in line with the principles of a circular economy.
Our “Best Policies” are those that meet the Future Just Lawmaking Principles and recognise the interconnected challenges we face today. The goal of principled policy work is to ensure that important universal standards of sustainability and equity, human rights and freedoms, and respect for the environment are taken into account. It also helps to increase policy coherence between different sectors.
Sustainable use of natural resources
The Scottish Zero Waste Plan promotes a sustainable and responsible use of resources, comprising a roadmap for a progressive waste reduction, recycling, recovery and disposal strategy. The focus on increasing the overall resource efficiency tackles the global challenge of environmental pollution and over-exploitation of natural resources. Moreover, the extensive reduction of landfill waste through high recycling rates reduces methane emissions from landfills substantially. By decreasing these GHG emissions and, at the same time, producing green electricity from food waste biogas, the Scottish Zero Waste Plan also climate change.
Equity and poverty eradication
The Scottish Zero Waste Plan does not contribute to poverty eradication, but is directly related to intergenerational justice. By substantially contributing to resource efficiency and the reuse of valuable resources the Scottish waste policy is contributing to preserving equal opportunities for future generations by regulating the availability of resources responsibly.
A direct relation between the Zero Waste Plan and the precautionary principle cannot be established. However, by drastically reducing waste, Scotland contributes to a more responsible utilisation of resources, whilst simultaneously decreasing the overexploitation of natural resources through extensive recycling, reuse and recovery of waste. Furthermore, the reduction of GHG emissions from landfills through reduced amounts of waste contributes to curb the extent and therefore the impact of future climate change.
Public participation, access to information and justice
To achieve a Zero Waste Scotland the Scottish Government perceives a strong national policy as paramount to inform and enable local action. This requires a close collaboration between the Scottish Government and key delivery partners. In this regard, the Government’s delivery programme Zero Waste Scotland constitutes an important pillar in providing local and targeted support to enable different sectors to improve their understanding and use of resources. Moreover, a close cooperation with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and local authorities is supposed to ensure the enforcement of the Zero Waste Plan framework and related regimes in such a way that efficient resource use and recovery is enabled, in particular with regard to the long-term planning and development of local infrastructure.
Good governance and human security
The Zero Waste Plan is implemented by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). In addition, local authorities are mandated with the collection and disposal of household waste and smaller amounts of commercial waste, while the ‘How’ these authorities execute this service lies in their responsibility. A direct relation between the Scottish waste policy and human security cannot be determined.
Integration and interrelationship
Environmental protection can be ensured through the implementation of the Scottish Zero Waste Plan, leading to a substantial reduction in waste, which will reduce environmental pollution and natural capital degradation.
By generating economic growth and job opportunities in the recycling sector, as well as supporting the expansion of the recycling industry, the Zero Waste Plan is promoting a greener economy, while integrating social justice and environmental protection into the economic development. Benefits will be created from the resource value of waste on the long-term, particularly by creating new opportunities for Scottish businesses and the wider economy.
Common but differentiated responsibilities
The principle of common but differentiated responsibility is not directly addressed by the Zero Waste Plan. However, the Scottish Government seeks to collaborate in a unified manner and closely with the private sector and the civil society. Initiatives such as the Resource Efficient Scotland programme provide the capacity to enable citizens and businesses to increase their resource efficiency by saving and reducing water, energy, raw material and waste.
Waste is produced daily throughout society, either directly, by throwing something away, or indirectly, by consuming goods and services that produce waste during their manufacture. The resource value of waste can be partly regained through recycling and energy recovery, but also by using resources more efficiently before they are considered waste.
There are several other examples of Zero Waste policies throughout the world, which include the extremely virtuous waste policy of the Flanders Region in Belgium, the Zero Waste Strategy of Capannori, a town in Italy, and the Zero Waste Strategy of San Francisco. Since these examples rather address the local and regional level, the Scottish Zero Waste Plan is in a way unique as it is a national policy on Zero Waste and in comparison to the most common cases of municipal or regional waste policies, the plan covers the entire national territory.
After an estimated amount of £100million resource value in household waste alone remained untapped in 2009, Scotland realised the importance of waste as an economic driver. As a consequence, the Scottish Government developed its Zero Waste Plan in 2010, setting the strategic goals and actions towards a sustainable approach in treating and managing waste, utilising it as a resource and benefitting economically from the reuse of waste.
As a result of governmental consultations on how to achieve the objectives of the Zero Waste Plan with the existing and proposed regulations, the Scottish Government established two statutory instruments. The first statutory instrument, the Waste (Scotland) Regulation 2012 amended the Environmental Protection Act 1990, the Waste Management Licensing Regulation 2011, the Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulation 2000, as well as the Landfill (Scotland) Regulation 2003. As a second statutory instrument, the Environmental Protection (Duty of Care) (Scotland) Regulation 2012 replaced the Environmental Protection (Duty of Care) Regulations 1991.
With the European Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) becoming a key cornerstone of the Scottish Zero Waste Plan and the Waste (Scotland) Regulation, Scotland’s new waste policy is fundamentally contributing to the national implementation of EU regulations. This concerns in particular Article 4 of the EU Directive which determines the waste treatment hierarchy, consisting of (a) prevention, as the highest priority, being followed by (b) preparing for re-use, (c) recycling, (d) other recovery, e.g. energy recovery and (e) disposal as the least desirable option. Scotland’s waste management is essentially guided by this waste hierarchy.
The Zero Waste Plan creates a stable framework and sets out ambitious measures to achieve the Scottish Government’s vision of a Zero Waste society over the next 10 years, where all waste is perceived as a potential resource. This includes drastic waste reductions, strict waste separation and the recycling of waste to prevent the disposal of valuable resources on landfills.
The Zero Waste Plan’s long-term Mission and Vision are the guiding principles for determining strategic directions on the medium term (up to five years), while setting out immediate priorities.
Mission: To achieve a zero waste Scotland, where we make the most efficient use of resources by minimising Scotland’s demand on primary resources, and maximising the reuse, recycling and recovery of resources instead of treating them as waste.
Vision: This vision describes a Scotland where resource use is minimised, valuable resources are not disposed of in landfills, and most waste is sorted into separate streams for reprocessing, leaving only limited amounts of waste to go to residual waste treatment, including energy from waste facilities.
To achieve the long-term vision of a Zero Waste society the Scottish Government sets out 22 key actions in the Zero Waste Plan. Some of these key objectives include:
- to develop a Waste Prevention Programme for all sorts of waste, which is in line with the EU Waste Framework Directive, making waste prevention and recycling a central element of Zero Waste policy and action
- to achieve 70% waste recycling, while merely 5% are disposed at landfills by 2025
- to ban specific waste types of being disposed on landfills in order to reduce GHG emissions and utilise the resource value of these types of waste
- strict waste separation and separate collection of specific waste types (e.g. food waste) to ensure the recyclability by preventing contamination of valuable waste materials
- encouraging waste prevention, reuse and recycling by restricting the amount of waste diverted to incineration for waste recovery
- to provide information on economic and environmental opportunities of waste sources
- to utilise the powers under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 that seeks to improve the data on resource use by the Scottish business sector through regulatory reporting
The Zero Waste Plan was published by the Scottish Government.
In January 2011, the Scottish Government started a policy consultation, covering three of the 22 proposed actions in the Zero Waste Plan that would require regulatory measures. These include Action 4, 8 & 14 on
- the requirement of source segregation and separate collection of specified waste materials;
- restrictions of input to landfill (effectively banning materials which could be re-used or recycled or which could be used to produce energy); and
- restrictions on inputs to Energy from Waste facilities (effectively banning materials which could be re-used or recycled).
The consultation on regulations to deliver the Zero Waste Plan proposed five key measures;
- Source segregation and separate collection of key recyclable materials
- to ban the mixing of separately collected recyclable materials
- to ban landfilling of key recyclable materials
- to restrict the inputs to energy from waste facilities
- A property based ban on waste disposed to landfill based on organic content
As a formal response to the consultation the Scottish Government formulated a Policy Statement in October 2011. Aside from a number of practical and technical issues, the Policy Statement determined a strong support for the principles in the draft regulations, thus clearing the way towards two statutory instruments adopted in 2012.
As a result of policy consultation and statement in 2011, the Scottish parliament adopted two statutory instruments that should ensure the achievement of the goals determined by the Zero Waste Plan in 2010: the Waste (Scotland) Regulation 2012 and the Environmental Protection (Duty of Care) (Scotland) Regulation 2012. Both regulations propose measures to address the categories of sorted waste, designated for recycling, and unsorted waste requiring further treatment, recovery and disposal. In general, the regulations follow a dual approach, maximising recycling and resource recovery. The latter is of particular importance for the environment as it ensures the treatment of unsorted waste.
In detail, the Waste (Scotland) Regulation 2012 aims at:
- The separate collection of metal, plastic, glass, paper and card waste (incl. cardboard) from 1 January 2014, concerning all businesses, public sector organisations and NGOs
- The separate collection of food waste from the 1 January 2014, concerning food businesses (except in rural areas) with a weekly waste production of more than 50 kg food waste
- The separate collection of food waste from the 1 January 2016, concerning food businesses (except in rural areas) with a weekly waste production of more than 5 kg of food waste
- To provide a minimum recycling service to householders from local authorities
- Cooperating with waste contractors which provide collection and treatment services and deliver high quality recycling
- To stop the incineration or landfilling of metal, plastic, glass, paper, card and food that was collected separately for recycling from 1 January 2014
- To ensure the removal of metals and dense plastics from residual municipal waste prior to incineration in all new incinerators
- To ban biodegradable municipal waste going to landfill from 1 January 2021
In 2011 the Scottish Government launched its single delivery programme Zero Waste Scotland by publishing the Zero Waste Programme Plan 2011-2015. Zero Waste Scotland is not only responsible for implementing specific actions set by the Zero Waste Plan, but also intends to provide coordination and streamlining of the implementation process. The programme therefore offers advice and provides information to support businesses, individual citizens, communities and local authorities in making their contribution towards the transition of a Zero Waste Scotland. This includes actions, which increase the efficiency of resource utilisation by preventing, reusing, recycling or recovering waste. The Zero Waste Scotland programme applies three key principles to all its activities in the context of the Zero Waste Plan. These include:
- Minimising the use of primary resources
- Prevention of waste
- Closed loop recycling
The Zero Waste Scotland programme is in general taking the lead in delivering the targeted objective of the Zero Waste Plan and regularly publishes updates, where the undertaken actions are specified. According to Zero Waste Scotland, in 2013-14 the Scottish Government
- launched the Resource Efficient Scotland programme to drive implementation of energy, water and material efficiency measures by organisations, through a new ‘one stop’ service which has so far helped over 20,000 businesses
- continued the transformation of food waste from a liability to a resource delivering an investment programme which rolled out food waste recycling servicesto over 1.2 million households
- revealed for the first time the direct and indirect costs of litter and fly-tippingas part of a major research programme to inform the Scottish Government’s forthcoming National Litter Strategy
- joined forces with ‘Team Scotland’ – the publicly funded bodies delivering the Scottish Government’s vision & goals – to help bring about a step change in low carbon heat through the Heat Network Partnership, which supports the Scottish Government target of having 11% of heat from renewable sources by 2020
- provided financial stimulus to a manufacturing business, Panel2Panel, which uses recycled plastics to create construction fittings, resulting in 25 new jobs
So far the Zero Waste Scotland Programme published four delivery plans. The fourth and latest Zero Waste Scotland delivery plan sets out the priorities and key actions for the period 2014-2015. These include six priority areas
- Supporting a circular economy
- Harnessing the value of recycling
- Transforming attitudes to food waste
- Reducing the impacts of litter
- Implementing resource efficiency savings
- Accelerating the development of low carbon heat
The Zero Waste Plan does not merely comprise a waste policy, but is rather intended as a comprehensive economic and resource strategy. A Zero Waste Scotland will:
- be where everyone – individuals, the public and business sectors – appreciates the environmental, social and economic value of resources, and how they can play their part in using resources efficiently;
- reduce Scotland’s impact on the environment, both locally and globally, by minimising the unnecessary use of primary materials, reusing resources where possible, and recycling and recovering value from materials when they reach the end of their life;
- help to achieve the targets set in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 of reducing Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions by 42% by 2020 and 80% by 2050;
- contribute to sustainable economic growth by seizing the economic and environmental business and job opportunities of a zero waste approach.
The implementation of the Zero Scotland Plan is progressing and some of the already achieved successes are listed below.
- The Scottish Government consulted on how to achieve the objectives of the Zero Waste Plan in 2010/2011 within the existing regulatory framework.
- As a result of the governmental consultation, two statutory instruments were established, including the Waste (Scotland) Regulation 2012 and the Environmental Protection (Duty of Care) (Scotland) Regulation 2012.
- In April 2013, the Resource Efficient Scotland programme was launched offering free advice and support in order to increase resource efficiency by saving and reducing water, energy, raw material and waste.
- In January 2014, Scotland launched the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2014 requiring all businesses to separate key materials for recycling, including plastic, glass, metals, paper and card, while food waste underlies also specific requirements for separation and collection. Zero Waste Scotland supports the businesses to comply with this new waste regulation.
- In June 2014, the Scottish Government published the national litter strategy “Towards A Litter-Free Scotland: A Strategic Approach To Higher Quality Local Environments” aiming at environmental protection by addressing litter and fly-tipping through influencing people’s behaviour.
- In October 2014, the Scottish Parliament passed legislation on a carrier bag charge. This includes a minimum cost of 5p for each new single-use carrier bag at all retailers, which led to an 80% reduction of handed out plastic bags in one year.
- In February 2016, the Scottish Government published its circular economy strategy for Scotland “Making Things Last”.
So far, Scotland has increased its rate of recycling and composting of waste for re-use from all sources by 2.6%. Namely, from 52.7% to 55.3% between 2011 and 2014 ,yet, it is still missing about 15% to achieve the Scottish Waste Plan’s target of 70% in 2025. . The percentage of waste sent to landfills or incineration without recovery facilities decreased between 2011 and 2013 by 13.3%. However, in 2014 still 39.2% of waste was sent to landfill and it will require a lot of effort to achieve the maximum amount of 5% waste disposal in landfills by 2025. In total, Scotland reduced its generated waste by 14.6% between 2011 and 2014.
Scotland’s waste policy is thus well under way to becoming a role model of a progressive waste policy that seeks for a sustainable treatment of natural resources by reducing, recycling, recovering, and, eventually, having only a minimal disposal of waste.
Perceiving the Scottish Zero Waste policy not merely as waste strategy, but instead as economic and resource strategy it has the potential and the necessary incentives for becoming a transferable model to other countries, promoting resource efficiency and sustainability, when it comes to a progressive treatment of waste.
Overview of “Who does what” in the Scottish waste policy
Consultation on the proposed Zero Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2011 – Regulations to Deliver Zero Waste
Policy Statement Zero Waste Regulations (2011)
Zero Waste Scotland Programme
Zero Waste online at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency
Policy Briefing on the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012
Scottish national litter strategy “Towards A Litter-Free Scotland: A Strategic Approach To Higher Quality Local Environments”