Scottish Government to delay Scottish landfill ban to 2025

Scottish Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has announced that the Scottish Government will be pushing back its plan to ban all biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) from being sent to landfill by 2021.

An image of a landfill site

The landfill ban has now been delayed until 2025, with Cunningham calling for a “transitional approach” to allow full compliance.

BMW includes all household waste that is capable of undergoing anaerobic or aerobic digestion, such as food and garden waste, textiles, wood, paper, cardboard, packaging and residual (‘black bin’) waste. 

In a written answer report, Cunningham stated: “Full compliance by 2021 will not be possible without reliance on export options, including landfill in England, with consequent environmental impact and additional financial implications for local authorities.”

She explained that the four-year extension would only be made on the condition that local authorities and businesses commit to making progress, and that the Scottish Landfill Tax will be used to provide an incentive for the transition away from landfill.

She added: “I have agreed that full enforcement should be delayed until 2025 for both public and private sectors managing wastes covered by the ban. This timescale is in line with the broader advice provided by the Climate Change Committee on action needed to meet net zero emissions targets.

“In relation to future delivery plans, I wish to reinforce the importance of reducing waste and increasing recycling. These provide the best solutions in line with the waste hierarchy and will reduce reliance on solutions further down the hierarchy, such as energy from waste.

“Scottish Government will continue to work closely with key partners and will bring forward detailed proposals for this transitional approach in due course.”

Commenting on the ban’s extension, Adrian Bond, Programme Manager for Recycling at Zero Waste Scotland, said: “Zero Waste Scotland believes that aligning the date of the ban with other targets for waste prevention, food waste and recycling will provide greater focus to implement policy and investment in services that will drive down the amount of waste being landfilled.

“It is clear that a lot of work needs to be done and we will continue to support Scottish councils to increase the quantity and quality of recycling and reduce waste. However, we need to radically decrease the amount of waste generated in the first place and prioritise this over recycling. The ban will provide opportunities for businesses, and consumers, to create the conditions where waste is being reduced.”

Stephen Freeland, Policy Advisor at the Scottish Environmental Services Association (SESA), the trade body for the Scottish waste management sector, said: "Faced with the prospect of sending one million tonnes of waste to England for disposal in landfill, the decision to push the ban back to 2025 seems a sensible one. A concerted effort is now needed to improve the public procurement framework to help get Scotland back on track and deliver the much needed alternative waste treatment infrastructure.

"Proposals to amend the landfill tax to incentivise the pace of change deserve careful consideration, as increasingly adept waste criminals might easily exploit any price disparity between Scotland and the rest of the UK."

The landfill ban is part of the Scottish Government’s Zero Waste Plan, which aims to achieve a nationwide recycling rate of 70 per cent by 2025, with only five per cent of remaining waste going to landfill.

Questions have been raised previously about the feasibility of Scotland reaching its 2021 target. A report published in April, for example, produced by Eunomia Research and Consulting on behalf of the Scottish Government, suggested that Scottish councils were inadequately prepared for the upcoming landfill ban. According to the report, local authorities and waste management companies had made limited progress in preparation towards the ban, with a total of nine local authorities having no solution in place at all.

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