Scottish Government to table Circular Economy Bill

Scotland’s 2019/20 Programme for Government was published yesterday (3 September) setting out plans to tackle climate change and drive progress towards net zero carbon emissions by 2045.

The front page of Scotland's Programme for Government

The programme outlined Scotland’s plans for a new Circular Economy Bill, which aims to change attitudes towards waste and tackle the country’s throw-away culture. The new bill will include provisions to introduce charges on items such as single-use coffee cups – tackling the 4,000 tonnes of waste beverage cups create in Scotland each year – and a new penalty for littering from vehicles.

Consultations on the new bill will begin shortly, with the aim that the legislation will be brought forward in the coming year.

Launching the Programme for Government, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Earlier this year, I acknowledged that Scotland – like the rest of the world – faces a climate emergency. We are now committed to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 at the latest – earlier than any other UK nation.

“This year’s Programme for Government is an important part of our response to the climate emergency, containing measures which will reduce emissions while supporting sustainable and inclusive growth.”

Commenting on the Circular Economy Bill, Sturgeon added: “Scotland has the opportunity to become a world leader in this essential industry of the future – we must grasp that opportunity.

“We will also continue our efforts to reduce waste, and to reuse and recycle materials more effectively. To encourage this further, we will introduce a Circular Economy Bill in the coming year. Among other things, it will enable changes to be applied for items such as single-use coffee cups.”

The programme places Scotland’s plans for its deposit return scheme (DRS), set to be introduced in 2021, at the heart of its efforts to reduce waste. The DRS aims to increase recycling rates through placing a 20 pence fee on top of the cost of drinks containers, which can then be recouped when the container is returned for recycling.

Although Scotland’s upcoming DRS has been met with a mixed response from the waste industry, with critics suggesting that the scheme will negatively impact kerbside collections, the Scottish Government claim that the DRS will reduce the £46 million spent each year on litter removal and will achieve carbon savings equivalent to taking 85,000 cars off the roads.

Taking further action to cut down on single-use plastics, the Scottish Government also announced that it will shortly consult on raising the minimum amount for the single-use carrier bag charge from five pence to 10 pence, in line with the standards set out in the European Union’s Single Use Plastic Directive.

Recycling rates

Despite efforts to target waste reduction, Scotland’s recycling rate fell from 59.1 per cent in 2016 to 58.9 per cent in 2017, due to an extra 620,000 tonnes of waste – mostly from construction and demolition (C&D) – being generated in 2017.

Scotland did, however, see a significant increase in the amount of food waste being sent for composting or anaerobic digestion, which rose by 16.6 per cent to 302,829 tonnes in 2017 – the Scottish Government states that 80 per cent of households now have access to food waste collections.

In order to build on the progress made in food waste recycling, the programme commits to exploring opportunities to require businesses to publicly report food waste and surplus, with a consultation to be carried out on obligating food retail sites to redistribute unsold edible food products. Further, the Scottish Government will also consult on the existing rural exemption for household food waste collections and review the food waste separation requirements.

Regards to dry recycling, the Scottish Government’s programme commits to begin an evaluation of the Scottish Household Recycling Charter and review the Charter’s Code of Practice, both of which govern how local authority kerbside recycling is carried out in Scotland.

The programme also outlined the government’s plans for a ‘Green New Deal’, which will accelerate investment in projects to achieve the net zero goal. Highlighting the value of bioenergy in decarbonising our energy system, the programme laid out plans to consult on a draft bioenergy action plan later this year.

The Scottish Government also plans to develop the industrial biotechnology sector, which is working to replace existing fuels with sustainable, non-fossil based alternatives.

Scotland’s circular economy

Scotland has been at the forefront of the move towards a circular economy, publishing its circular economy strategy, ‘Making Things Last’, in 2016, which set out the government’s plans to use resources more efficiently. As part of this strategy, the government set a target to limit the amount of waste going to landfill to five per cent by 2025.

Shortly before the publication of the circular economy strategy, Sturgeon announced a £70 million investment programme to help small to medium-sized enterprises (SME) implement circular business models. The government has also set up four ‘Circular Regions’ – Glasgow, Edinburgh, Tayside and the North East – which each receive tailored support to promote local circular opportunities.

In October 2018, Zero Waste Scotland released a report revealing the value of the circular economy for Scotland, with figures suggesting that the benefits of adopting circular business practices could be worth £1 billion in the regions of Tayside, Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

You can read the full Programme for Government on the Scottish Government’s website

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