Scotland’s drive to harmonise recycling collections picks up pace while England stalls

Falkirk first council to sign up to Scottish Recycling Charter
Falkirk became the first council to sign up to the charter earlier this year
The possibility of one consistent recycling system being used in Scotland is edging closer after the Scottish Government announced that half of its 32 councils have signed up to the Scottish Household Recycling Charter.

The charter, developed by a Zero Waste Taskforce led by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) and the Scottish Government, was designed to simplify recycling for residents across the country, making it easier to sort waste and improve the quality of the recycling.

It asks signatories to commit to introducing a three-stream recycling system, involving one container for glass, one for paper and card, and one for metals and plastics, together with existing food waste and residual collections.

Falkirk became the first Scottish council to sign up in February and have now been followed by 15 more authorities (a full list can be found at the bottom of this article).

As well as ensuring a consistent kerbside system, the charter also requires councils to ensure all citizens have access to a recycling service and that the service provided is clearly explained to improve awareness and recycling rates. Signatories are also encouraged to tell collection crews to leave contaminated recycling at the kerbside and to reduce the capacity for non-recyclable waste, which several councils are already doing by making residual waste collection three weekly.

Councils that sign the charter are able to access funding from Zero Waste Scotland to help with the rollout of new services.

Consistency ‘fundamental’ to the circular economy

Commenting on the news that half of the Scottish councils have signed up to the charter, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “We want Scotland to make the most of its resources, and as more councils make this commitment, we should see Scottish householders recycling more, while producing a better quality of recyclate for reprocessing.

“The consistent approach to recycling can deliver genuine efficiencies and cost savings to both individual councils and to local government as a whole. We’ve already made great progress since the charter was launched in December, but we can do more and I heartily encourage other Scottish councils to sign up and help us take this next step towards a circular economy in Scotland.”

Stephen Hagan, COSLA Spokesperson for Development, Economy and Sustainability, added: “Councils are firmly committed to creating opportunities for job creation and economic development across our communities and we see this consistent approach to recycling services as being fundamental to the circular economy approach that can help to unlock the value inherent within our so-called “waste” streams. I look forward to working with the Scottish Government to fully implement the Charter and to realising its full potential.”

Similar consistency drive stalling in England

While Scotland’s consistency drive has been making progress since the charter was published at the end of last year, plans to harmonise collection systems in England, led by the government, seem to have stalled.

The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), which has been leading a working group to investigate the possibility of limiting the options of councils to make recycling simpler for residents, asserted last week that consistency is still a priority for the government despite publication of its next steps being delayed.

The vision of harmonisation and the opportunities that it would present was meant to be published before Parliament began its summer recess on Thursday, but WRAP says that the ministerial reshuffle, which saw the plan’s champion, Former Resources Minister Rory Stewart, leave the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), had caused the delay. Stewart himself had recently seemed to dampen expectations for the plan.

In Wales – the British country with the highest recycling rate – the Welsh Government has been encouraging the use of its Collections Blueprint, which provides a model system that it feels would deliver high recycling rates, significant cost savings and improved sustainable development outcomes, since 2011.

The blueprint-preferred model is a ‘kerbside sort’ system, with weekly separate collections of dry recyclables and food waste, and fortnightly collections of residual waste. An independent review of the system carried out this year found that this model still presents the best option for Welsh councils to follow.

Signatories to the Scottish Household Recycling Charter

The 16 councils to have signed up to the Scottish Household Recycling Charter are:

  • Clackmannanshire
  • Dumfries and Galloway
  • Dundee City
  • East Ayrshire
  • East Dunbartonshire
  • East Renfrewshire
  • Eilean Siar (Western Isles)
  • Falkirk
  • Fife
  • Inverclyde
  • Midlothian
  • North Ayrshire
  • Perth & Kinross
  • Renfrewshire
  • South Lanarkshire
  • Scottish Borders

More information about the Household Recycling Charter can be downloaded from the COSLA website.

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