Charter to bring consistent recycling collections to Scotland

Charter to bring consistent recycling collections to ScotlandA voluntary framework for consistent recycling systems across Scotland has today (9 December) been announced by the Scottish Government and Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA).

The new voluntary Household Recycling Charter and associated Code of Practice has been developed and agreed on by the Scottish Government-COSLA Zero Waste Taskforce.

Announcing the agreement, Richard Lochhead, the Scottish Environment Secretary, said that the system will ‘make it easier for people to recycle, improve the quality of recycling and help local communities reap the benefits of a more circular economy’.

The Charter includes a new three-stream recycling system, which will include one container for glass, one for paper and card, and one for metals and plastics. This will be carried out alongside existing food waste and residual collections.

Over time, the Scottish Government says that a common colour system will be developed to further simplify the recycling process across the country.

Local authorities (LAs) will be able to sign up to the voluntary charter from January. After signing the charter, they will receive support from Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) to introduce the new system.

News of the Charter comes weeks before Lochhead is expected to present details of the Scottish Government’s circular economy strategy. The minister has already confirmed that a food waste reduction target will be included in the strategy, which was the subject of a public consultation earlier this year.

Development of the Household Recycling Charter

The taskforce, which also included the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE), ZWS, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scotland Excel, met four times between March 2014 and June 2015.

In June this year, the task force recommended that a charter be developed to support LAs in delivering the benefits of a more circular economy. In November, COSLA leaders approved the core principles and content of the Code of Practice, specifically the three-stream system for paper and card, glass and metals and plastics.

Consistency will ‘sweep away confusion’

Launching the framework, Lochhead said: “This new consistent approach will sweep away the confusion that we all face every time we come across yet another difficult recycling system. It will maximise the quantity and quality of materials captured, and allow us to give consistent national messages about what people should do with their recycling, wherever they are in Scotland.

Scotland to have food waste target
Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead
“This is a huge opportunity for Scotland, and as I set out in my circular economy consultation, I intend to align Scottish Government and Zero Waste Scotland support for recycling with the Scottish Household Recycling Charter.”

Councillor Stephen Hagan, COSLA Spokesperson for Development, Economy and Sustainability, added: “COSLA leaders, by agreeing the principles of a more consistent approach to recycling across Scotland, have taken a step towards developing a hugely significant opportunity that will unlock the value in household waste, allowing councils to fully benefit from the economic opportunities associated with the recycling industry, creating jobs and delivering value for money services.

“I believe that this proposed approach will make it even easier for people to recycle and would encourage everyone to support us in this by using the systems correctly and to their maximum to get the best value for money. Doing this is in all our interests.

“I welcome the Cabinet Secretary’s support for joint leadership on this matter and I would also like to recognise the input from experts and officers across local government who have provided significant technical and operational input and expertise throughout the development of this framework.”

Charter will improve LA performance and create jobs

Explaining the added benefits of a more consistent approach, John Mundell, Chief Executive of Inverclyde Council and SOLACE Strategic Lead on environmental issues in Scotland, said: “The Charter and Code of Practice will help the public and councils further improve recycling of domestic waste and help create much needed additional employment across Scotland.

“Our household waste recycling in Inverclyde was just under 57 per cent in 2014 and I believe that the Charter will help us achieve the challenging national target of 70 per cent. The Code is flexible and characterises good practice because it reflects the combined expertise and experience of local government waste professionals across Scotland and over time, it should deliver a consistent national system with all the associated benefits.”

Iain Gulland, Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland, added: “Today’s announcement marks an important stage in Scotland’s commitment to increase recycling. We must make best use of the materials we have, for strong environmental and economic reasons.

“Adoption of the Charter by councils will help provide clarity and consistency for householders and the resource management industry. Zero Waste Scotland will be ready to support councils who sign up to the new Charter.”

Industry support for Charter

The adoption of the Charter has been well-received by packaging recyclers in Scotland.

The Packaging Recycling Group Scotland (PRGS), which consists of 34 leading food and drink companies and industry bodies, says that it will support the Recycling Charter and work with the Scottish Government, local authorities and key stakeholders to achieve ambitious recycling targets.

Jane Bickerstaffe, spokesperson for The Packaging Recycling Group Scotland, said: "PRGS welcomes the decision of the Scottish Government and COSLA to work together and build on the success of current recycling systems. Through working in partnership, the Household Recycling Charter will bring Scotland a step closer to becoming a leader in sustainability. We believe that strengthening and integrating current recycling systems is the most effective way to boost recycling rates throughout the country."

The PRGS has committed to a five-year campaign to support the Charter and says that its members, which span the food and drink, retail, hopsitality and packaging sectors are ideally placed to do so. By maximising their consumer reach and working in partnership with industry, government and other stakeholders to make it easier for everyone to recycle, it aims to increase recycling rates of plastic and glass bottles and metal cans to 80 per cent by 2025.

Consistency in the UK

The idea of a consistent approach to LA recycling collections in England has become one of the top priorities of Resources Minister Rory Stewart in recent months.

The minister has set up a Harmonisation and Consistency Working Group, led by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), which is researching the possibility of giving LAs a limited choice of ‘five or six’ different collection systems within the next 10 years.

The group, which also includes LAs, waste management contractors, recyclers, producers and retailers, plans to present a set of recommendations to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) by the end of the year.

Wales already has a Collection Blueprint, launched in 2011, which encourages collections that see households given two or more boxes to be stacked. Eunomia Research & Consulting is currently undertaking an independent review of the Blueprint to take in account new developments in equipment. It expects to deliver its report on whether this is still the best option for LAs across Wales to the Welsh Government this month.

A full text of the Household Recycling Charter can be downloaded here.

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