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Waste Management Briefing No 130
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Waste Management Briefing No 130

Feb 2006

Introduction

This briefing outlines current Scottish waste management policies and related issues and offers a waste management charter for the public sector. It is launched as a contribution to Scottish Environment Week, from 6th to 12th February.

Due to increased awareness of the environmental and health consequences of not properly dealing with waste, it is widely accepted that sustainable waste management is a crucial part of sustainable development. Action is needed at every level: the public, private and voluntary sectors, at work and at home by individuals and families.

More than 85% of waste in Scotland is sent directly to landfill, which is a major source of greenhouse and other gases. Scotland and the UK are near the bottom of the European recycling league table, while Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands have already met EU targets to cut the amount of waste going to landfill.

An environmental impact report in 2004, part-funded by the Scottish Executive, calculated that if everyone in the world lived like the average Scot, two extra planets would be needed. Materials and waste made up the largest part, 38%, of the 'ecological footprint'. The Viridis report 'Scotland's Footprint' found that Scotland generated almost 15 million tonnes of waste in 2001 - enough for every Scot to fill 1 rubbish bags daily. It said consumption cannot continue at this level. To live within the 'earthshare' (a measure of ecological sustainability), waste generation would need to be cut by 75%.

National Waste Plan

The European Union Landfill Directive 1999 set targets for reducing the amount of biodegradable municipal waste sent to landfill and required member states to set up a strategy to meet the targets. The Scottish Executive launched its National Waste Strategy (NWS) in 1999, establishing key principles for future approaches and for complying with legislation. The strategy promised a National Waste Plan (NWP), which was published in 2003.

Environment Minister Ross Finnie said the Plan placed waste at the heart of the Executive's approach to sustainable development. Waste production, waste recycling and the amount of waste sent to landfill are three of 24 key indicators of sustainable development for Scotland.

About 19% of Scottish municipal waste is recycled or composted (2004-05). The NWP target is for that to rise to 25% of waste collected by local authorities by 2006 and 55% by 2020. The aim is also to stop the current growth in the amount of municipal waste produced by 2010.

The Scottish Executive allocated over £350 million to a Strategic Waste Fund to help councils develop the infrastructure to achieve these targets. This could include facilities, plant and equipment or services, e.g. waste reduction initiatives, introduction or expansion of separate collection and treatment of waste for recycling, provision of composting equipment, provision or upgrade of recycling and materials reclamation facilities, energy from waste technology and promotional and educational activities.

The plan will also: provide segregated kerbside waste collection to over 90% of households by 2020; recover energy from 14% of municipal waste; reduce landfill from 90% to 30%; provide waste minimisation advice to businesses; develop markets for recycled material.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) co-ordinates the NWP. The NWS set out guiding principles for establishing what is the best practice environmental option (BPEO) to tackle waste: the waste hierarchy, proximity and self-sufficiency and the 'polluter pays' approach.

The waste hierarchy lists the preferred options in descending order - prevention; re-use or refurbishment; recycling or composting/biological treatments; other recovery (including energy from waste, with promotion of alternative technologies); disposal.

The National Waste Plan comprises a national approach and eleven Area Waste Plans (AWPs), covering: Argyll & Bute; Ayrshire, Dumfries & Galloway; Fife; Forth Valley; Glasgow & Clyde Valley; Highland; Lothian & Borders; North East; Orkney & Shetland; Tayside; Western Isles.

The National and Local Plans are implemented through partnership working between the Scottish Executive, SEPA, local government, industry and the community sector. SEPA says that action so far means over a million Scottish households now have a kerbside recycling service. It believes the 25% target should be achieved, with the April - June 2005 figure at 23.9%, up from 16.6% on 2004, although rates vary considerably from council to council.

The NWP covers all household, commercial and industrial waste. The initial stages concentrated on municipal waste, but most, around 75%, is not generated by households. The Scottish Executive is currently developing further its approach to commercial and industrial waste (non-household waste generated by the private, public and voluntary sectors - except radioactive waste, covered by separate legislation) but due to 'the polluter pays' principle, significant funds will not be committed.

An increasing Landfill Tax is seen as the main driver encouraging businesses to adopt sustainable waste management. Local authorities face financial penalties if they breach landfill allowances.

The NWP also recognises it is essential to expand existing markets and develop new markets for recycled materials. The Executive funds work in this area including via ReMaDe Scotland. Other work following European Directives looks at recovering and recycling packaging waste, efforts to tackle electrical and electronic equipment waste and car and vehicle reuse, recyling and recovery.

The NWP identifies the need for "a massive shift in waste producer and consumer culture" via sustained national and local awareness campaigns. Waste Aware Scotland and similar initiatives urge us all to 'Reduce Reuse Recycle'.

Examples of good practice in Scotland

South Lanarkshire Council Waste Awareness Unit boosted recycling rates from 12% to 30% with a new blue bin scheme, as well as creating 12 full time and 20 temporary posts. Careful planning and community consultation has ensured it and a pilot glass collection scheme proved very successful and popular.

The Scottish Executive recycles about 80% of its total waste but the total has been increasing for five years so it will now focus on waste reduction.

Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and North Lanarkshire Councils are working with WWF Scotland on Scotland's Global Footprint Project which aims to reduce their local and global environmental impact and to develop tools to monitor progress and educational material for schools.

A project to provide the Ecological Footprint of every UK local authority area has a report out in early 2006 at: http://sites.wwflearning.co.uk/ecobudget/localauthorities

Implications and concerns

UNISON campaigns on sustainable development and supports realistic yet robust targets on boosting recycling rates, backed by proper funding and clear incentives and sanctions. The priority is the top level of the waste hierarchy - reduce, reuse and recover. Waste minimisation initiatives proposed by UNISON and other trade unions (TUs) include discouraging the "throwaway society" via incentives for the reuse and repair of goods - perhaps by reducing VAT on labour, repair and spare part replacement, similar to the support for the energy conservation industry.

The focus on recycling and developing new products manufactured from waste, along with infrastructure investment should see a welcome jobs dividend, especially in the public sector, although TUs want those whose posts are affected, including landfill workers, to receive support and training to switch to environmentally sustainable work. A 2003 Scottish study forecast a doubling of the sector by 2020 with 10-12,000 new jobs, mainly public sector.

PPP/PFI UNISON is opposed to the use of Public Private Partnership funding for new waste projects. PPP schemes don't achieve best value for public funds; lead to reduced service levels, poorer quality systems and buildings and the fragmenting of public service staff teams. The Private Finance Initiative funded Baldovie incinerator in Dundee has been plagued by operating and financial problems. Waste projects using PFI/PPP financing are operational, in planning or proposed in: Argyll & Bute, Dumfries & Galloway, Dundee, Highland, Lanarkshire and Midlothian.

A new Chartered Institution of Wastes Management report on lessons from Europe found that the countries which perform best at diverting waste from landfill fund their new facilities and technologies using alternative systems such as prudential style borrowing, rather than the UK emphasis on PFI.

Incinerators A key concern of the green lobby is the role of incinerators, with concern the Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme may increase incineration. Environmentalists argue the health risks from incinerators mean they should not be used. However, modern energy from waste (EFW) plants are claimed to be far less harmful than previous generations of incinerators. SEPA says new thermal treatment plants must normally take only residual waste after segregation and be integrated into waste management networks and have energy recovery systems. UNISON backs more research and support for investment in safer incineration processes, such as bio fuels, thermal recycling and other combined heat and power generation.

One backward move has been the flawed implementation of an EU waste directive undermining the innovative burning of waste at Longannet Power Station in a partnership between Scottish Water and ScottishPower.

European Waste Strategy

Environmentalists want the government to argue for strengthening the new EU Thematic Strategy on Waste Prevention and Recycling with strict targets. They say it has weakened the waste hierarchy policy and promotes incineration.

Zero Waste

Greenpeace, the Scottish Greens, Friends of the Earth Scotland and others want Scotland to adopt a Zero Waste strategy, aiming to minimise and eventually eliminate waste, as adopted in places including New Zealand, Australia, Washington, California, Denmark, some English councils and by companies such as IBM, Xerox, Sony and Toyota. The NWP recognises that this and other emerging concepts (e.g: resource flow analysis, eco footprinting, clean technology and production, industrial ecology, consumer responsibility and extended producer responsibility (EPR)) may impact on or shape policy in the future.

A Waste Management Charter for Public Sector Organisations

  • agree an internal waste management and recycling strategy, which also looks at procurement in an overall sustainable development strategy
  • consult and involve staff on development and implementation of the strategy
  • ensure it promotes prevention, minimisation and other options from the top of the waste hierarchy, along with internal and external awareness-raising
  • agree realistic but challenging targets for the strategy, with regular monitoring and evaluation
  • provide easily accessible, clear information on the organisation's strategy, targets and progress on key indicators
  • use tools such as the Ecological Footprint in policy development, monitoring progress and raising awareness

Further Information

SEPA National Waste Strategy www.sepa.org.uk/nws/index.htm

Ecological Footprint Calculator www.scotlandsfootprint.org/my_footprint/my_footprint.php#20

Contacts list:

Fiona Montgomery
f.montgomery@unison.co.uk

Dave Watson - d.watson@unison.co.uk
@ The P&I Team,
14 West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel 0870 777006
Fax 0141 342 2835

Action for Branches

Branches can promote the UNISON Waste Management Charter and work with employers on establishing strategies where none yet exist or on improving current ones. Branches can also help promote environmental awareness-raising and the need for concerted action on waste.

On PFI/PPP issues, branches can monitor and campaign against the use of private finance in waste management projects.

Keep UNISON Scotland informed of your work in this area.

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Further Information

Contacts list:

Fiona Montgomery
f.montgomery@unison.co.uk

Dave Watson - d.watson@unison.co.uk
@ The P&I Team,
14 West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel 0870 777006
Fax 0141 342 2835

Action for Branches

Branches can promote the UNISON Waste Management Charter and work with employers on establishing strategies where none yet exist or on improving current ones. Branches can also help promote environmental awareness-raising and the need for concerted action on waste.

On PFI/PPP issues, branches can monitor and campaign against the use of private finance in waste management projects.

Keep UNISON Scotland informed of your work in this area.