Management Briefing No 130
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 1½ 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);
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
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
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
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
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.
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
- agree an internal waste management and recycling strategy,
which also looks at procurement in an overall sustainable development
- 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
- 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
SEPA National Waste Strategy www.sepa.org.uk/nws/index.htm
Ecological Footprint Calculator www.scotlandsfootprint.org/my_footprint/my_footprint.php#20
Dave Watson - email@example.com
@ 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 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.
Executive | Scottish Parliament | Briefings Home