Government

Scottish Government reveals proposals for Circular Economy Bill

The Scottish Government has revealed measures for its upcoming Circular Economy Bill, which will now be subject to a public consultation.

Plans to introduce a Circular Economy Bill were revealed in the Scottish Government’s 2019/20 Programme for Government in September, with proposals designed to tackle climate change and drive progress towards net zero carbon emissions by 2045.

Measures proposed in the Bill include giving ministers the power to place charges on disposable items that are deemed harmful to the environment. The Scottish Government has already announced its intention to apply this charge to single-use drinks cups, with the final level of the charge likely to be between 20 and 25 pence per cup.

Scotland reveals proposals for Circular Economy BillOther measures include: increasing the minimum single-use carrier bag charge from five pence to 10 pence; introducing the mandatory reporting of surplus stock of certain materials and encouraging its reuse, with food waste and textiles deemed priority areas; moving the voluntary Household Recycling Charter towards a mandated approach to increase recycling; and introducing powers for enforcement authorities to seize vehicles involved in waste crime and issue fixed penalty notices for littering from vehicles.

Public bodies will also be required to set out how they will meet climate change and circular economy obligations in their procurement strategies, in the hope that taking a more circular approach to procurement will stimulate increased demand for remanufactured and refurbished goods.

The Scottish Government has launched a consultation to gather public feedback on these proposals for legislation to develop Scotland’s circular economy.

The six-week consultation will be open for responses until 19 December so that the initiatives can be transposed into Scottish law before July 2020.

Commenting on the consultation, Scottish Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “A thriving circular economy presents enormous economic and industrial opportunities for Scotland, as well as significant environmental benefits. An estimated 80 per cent of our global climate emissions are currently linked to the production, consumption and waste of products and resources.

“For our journey towards becoming a net-zero society to be successful, it must involve a fundamental re-think about how we use and reuse materials. An innovative circular economy can improve productivity and open up new markets while providing employment opportunities and lower cost options to access the goods we need.

“Responding to the global climate emergency will be a challenge for us all – be it government, business or individuals – and I would strongly encourage everyone to share their views on how we make this journey together.”

Measures put forward in the Circular Economy Bill will complement the aims and objectives of existing legislation and policies that the Scottish Government hopes will advance the circular economy in Scotland, including that regarding Scotland’s deposit return scheme (DRS), billed to be introduced in 2021, and its Food Waste Reduction Action Plan, which aims to reduce Scotland’s food waste by one third by 2025.

Though the proposed Circular Economy Bill covers a number of areas to help drive towards the country’s recycling targets, the Bill has already come in for criticism for its scope, with Allan Sandilands, Principal Consultant at Resource Futures, decrying the lack of proposals aimed at the construction sector.

He said: “It is encouraging to see the Scottish Government take further steps towards helping Scotland transition to a circular economy through this bill. But it is disappointing to see no mention of the construction sector.

“It’s like the elephant in the room. Buildings account for 39 per cent of energy-related carbon emissions globally: 28 per cent from operational emissions and 11 per cent from materials and construction. As we progress towards a net-zero future, urgent action is required from the built environment to address embodied carbon and reduce whole-life carbon emissions of new buildings.

“The circular economy should be a mechanism for tackling this carbon impact and the Scottish Government need to signal an intent to the construction industry that they are serious about the 11 per cent embodied carbon by mandating reductions in waste and material consumption.”

Meanwhile, Stephen Freeland, Policy Advisor for the Scottish Environmental Services Association (SESA), lamented the lack of proposals regarding residual waste treatment, saying: "Key to the success of Scotland’s circular economy ambitions is the development of sustainable end markets, which help stimulate demand for recycled material. Changes to the public procurement process is a welcome first step, but much more could be done to help create resilient markets for recyclates, and a strong domestic reprocessing and manufacturing sector. Disappointingly, the proposals are completely silent on options for treating residual waste within the circular economy. To manage Scotland’s waste effectively all levels of the waste hierarchy should be addressed, and that includes prioritising energy from waste for society’s non-recyclable, combustible waste which in turn provides a source of low carbon energy to help power the re-manufacturing activities further up the hierarchy."

The full consultation paper for the Circular Economy Bill is available to read on the Scottish Government’s website and will be open for responses until 19 December 2019.

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