Scotland’s draft Circular Economy Bill targets waste of unsold products

The Scottish Government has just published its proposed Circular Economy Bill (14 June). The legislation aims to redefine how waste is managed in Scotland.

Scotland flagThe draft Circular Economy (Scotland) Bill has far-reaching implications for how waste resources are managed, setting out how strategy will be managed, alongside targets and responsibilities.

At the heart of the Bill is the requirement for the Scottish Ministers to prepare and publish a circular economy strategy. The strategy's key objectives revolve around reducing the consumption of materials, increasing reuse and recycling, and reducing waste in line with the principles of a circular economy. 

The Circular Economy (Scotland) Bill will give Ministers powers to:

  • Set local recycling targets, building on the experience of Wales, which has the best recycling rate in the UK;
  • Set statutory targets for delivery of a circular economy to measure progress in reducing waste and the nation’s carbon footprint;
  • Ban the disposal of unsold consumer goods, to prevent good products ending up in landfill;
  • And place charges on single-use items like coffee cups to encourage the move to reusable alternatives.

​​Local authorities will also be given additional enforcement powers, allowing them to decrease rates of flytipping and littering from cars.

The strategy calls for innovative approaches to waste reduction, reuse, and recycling, challenging the industry to develop new technologies, processes, and business models that align with the principles of a circular economy.

The Bill also presents potential opportunities for innovation in recycling and waste reduction. After the strategy is released and the targets set by the Scottish Ministers come into force, it is anticipated this will encourage demand for innovative solutions to fulfil these. This demand could spur the development of new technologies, processes, and business models within the waste industry, driving progress towards a circular economy.

Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater commented: “I want everyone in the country to experience a modern, easy-to-use waste service that makes it easy for people to do the right thing for the planet.
“The Circular Economy Bill with give local Councils and the Scottish Government the powers they need to transform our economy and tackle throwaway culture.

“Of course, the best way of tackling waste is to not create it in the first place. There are huge economic opportunities in the circular economy and we have already seen businesses in Scotland creating jobs by turning what we might otherwise throw away into valuable new products and services.

“This legislation will support the growth of more green businesses and community organisations while cutting waste and climate emissions."

Mechanisms to report on and review the circular economy

The Circular Economy Bill introduces robust reporting and review mechanisms to Scotland to ensure progress towards the objectives and plans outlined in the circular economy strategy.

These mechanisms are not only designed to hold the Scottish Ministers accountable but also to provide a transparent and ongoing assessment of Scotland's transition to a circular economy.

The Scottish Ministers are required to prepare a report after each reporting period – defined as 30 months. This report will detail the progress made towards the objectives and plans included in the circular economy strategy and the steps taken to keep the strategy under review. The report must be published and a copy laid before the Scottish Parliament, ensuring transparency and accountability.

The reports will describe progress of the circular economy strategy, including the effectiveness of current waste management practices and potential areas for improvement. It is intended this will lead to changes in practices and procedures within the waste industry, as it adapts to meet the objectives and targets of the circular economy strategy.

Alongside this, the review mechanism ensures that the circular economy strategy remains relevant and effective. The Scottish Ministers are required to keep the strategy under review and may revise it as they consider appropriate. This flexibility allows the strategy to adapt to new developments and challenges, ensuring that it continues to drive progress towards a circular economy.

Consultation and Public Involvement

The Bill also emphasises the importance of consultation and public involvement in the development of the circular economy strategy. Before laying a draft of a Scottish statutory instrument containing regulations under the Bill before the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Ministers must consult with relevant persons and the general public.

This consultation process provides a valuable opportunity for waste industry professionals to contribute their expertise and insights. As key stakeholders in the transition to a circular economy, waste industry professionals have a unique understanding of the challenges and opportunities associated with waste reduction, reuse, and recycling. Their input can help shape the regulations under the Bill, ensuring that they are practical, effective, and aligned with the realities of the waste industry.

Moreover, the consultation process provides an opportunity for waste industry professionals to engage with the public and other stakeholders. This engagement can foster a better understanding of the role of the waste industry in a circular economy, build support for new waste management practices, and encourage collaboration in achieving the objectives of the circular economy strategy.

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