Scotland’s waste plan to be ready by autumn

Scottish Environment and Rural Development minister Ross Finnie has told a Glasgow conference that the country’s national waste plan will be ready by the autumn.

The integration of local area plans into the national strategy, which will include targets for mandatory recycling and waste reduction for each local authority, will be overseen by a high-level advisory group.

Between now and the autumn the Environment Protection Act will be amended to give ministers powers to set targets and place a duty on councils to have their own, integrated waste management plans and meet them.

At the conference, organised by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Institute of Wastes Management, Mr Finnie said: “Everyone in this audience knows that Scotland does not have an enviable record as far as waste is concerned. Cheap landfill has been par for the course for decades. For most of us the wheelie bin gets emptied every week. Nothing much is required of us. We put almost anything we like in the bin and it goes away – 93% of it to landfill.”

SEPA’s Chairman agreed that Scotland needs to do more. “I make no bones about it – our performance on waste makes us the laggards of Europe,” said Ken Collins. “If we don’t get better we will fail to comply with various EU directives, and let me assure you that such directives are not some bureaucratic imposition generated by Brussels, they represent a move towards a more sustainable future for our country.”

However, Finnie pointed out that the £3million distributed to local authorities early last year to kick-start Scotland’s Strategic Waste Fund has made a significant impact. The introduction of kerbside collections and composting initiatives has had very positive results, and some authorities have reported that they were “well on the road” to doubling recycling levels.

Mr Finnie said the Scottish Executive is aiming to drastically reduce Scotland’s reliance on landfill. Its “absolute minimum” target is to reduce landfilled biodegradable municipal waste by 25% of its 1995 level by 2010. He explained that the National Waste Strategy was designed initially to reduce the use of landfill but that it was vital to find ways to reduce the amount of waste produced. “We need to view waste as a valuable resource, not a problem,” he pointed out. It must become second nature for householders to manage waste, he suggested, whether that meant waste separation or home composting. Mandatory recycling and waste reduction targets would be set, and the upcoming Local Government Bill would be used to enable ministers to set them.

He also announced that the area waste plans were close to fruition, and called for local authorities to finalise their plans for implementation and apply for support from the £50 million strategic waste fund set up to support this phase. A tripartite group comprising the executive, SEPA and the local authorities group COSLA will oversee the integration of these plans into the national strategy.

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