Waste industry unsure SEPA Waste Strategy will meet EU targets on time

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has published a National Waste Strategy, but has said it will not postpone the implementation of the European Landfill Directive "unless absolutely necessary."

The National Waste Strategy calls for a major shift away from the country’s current reliance on landfill sites towards a greater emphasis on local strategies. However, John Ferguson, SEPA’s Policy Advisor on Waste, has said that SEPA would not want to take up the Landfill Directive derogation option unless it was absolutely necessary. He added that it would be a couple of years before a decision would be made.

The Strategy sets out how 11 newly created ‘Waste Strategy Areas’ (WSAs) will develop area waste plans on the lines of a ‘waste hierarchy’ which emphasises the minimisation of waste production and recycling. The Strategy will also require communities to take responsibility for their own waste and emphasises the use of the precautionary and the polluter pays principles.

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) has welcomed the Strategy, but says derogations on the implementation of the Landfill Directive will have to be taken up across the UK if the Strategy is to be implemented. “From the waste management perspective, the Strategy is aiming in the right direction,” ESA’s Policy Executive, John Twitchen told edie. “The Strategy contains many opportunities for this sector. The fact that resources will be made available by the Scottish Executive is essential. Also important is the fact that the Strategy includes a full suite of integrated management options. However, achievability will depend on everyone working together and on support from SEPA.”

Twitchen urged the Scottish Executive to consider taking up the offer of a four year delay in the implementation of the EC’s Landfill Directive targets. The targets include a reduction of biodegradeable waste going to landfill to 75% of the 1995 level by 2006, to 50% by 2009 and to 35% by 2016. The derogations can be applied if a Member State was landfilling more than 80% of municipal waste in 1995. Both Scotland and England fall into this category.

“There should be a level playing field,” Twitchen said. “If England goes ahead with the derogations and Scotland does not, it could create costs and barriers between the two countries, particularly in the Borders. The derogations should therefore apply throughout the UK. It will be tough to meet the targets with derogations, even tougher to meet them without.”

“The biggest challenge is going to be delivering all of this,” said SEPA chairman Ken Collins. “The Waste Strategy Areas will allow key players to get together at local level to develop local area plans. It is through these that real progress will be made. SEPA will play its part. We look to others to join us in taking this vital issue forward.”

Scotland currently produces around 12 million tonnes of waste per year, 90% of which goes to landfill. Scottish industry produces around seven million tonnes, homes produce more than three million tonnes and business produces around two million tonnes. The reliance upon landfill cannot continue, SEPA says.

The Strategy relies upon the idea of a ‘waste hierarchy’: first, minimise the amount of waste produced, then reuse or recycle items wherever possible, finally get maximum value from what is left before finally considering landfill.

The central plank of the Strategy will be the creation of 11 Waste Strategy Areas. Each WSA will include representatives from SEPA, the relevant local authorities, local companies, the waste management industry and the major waste producing industries. They will develop area waste plans which will set out the measures necessary to deliver the Strategy.

Local authorities’ planning policies will be used to establish a network of waste management facilities in each area. These facilities will bring together a range of integrated waste management options in a single location.

The WSAs are:

  • Orkney & Shetland
  • Western Isles
  • Highland
  • Moray, City of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire
  • City of Dundee, Angus and Perth & Kinross
  • Stirling, Clackmannan and Falkirk
  • Fife
  • City of Edinburgh, West Lothian, Midlothian, East Lothian and the Scottish Borders
  • North Ayrshire, East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire and Dumfries & Galloway
  • Inverclyde, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, City of Glasgow, South Lanarkshire, North Lanarkshire, East Dumbartonshire, West Dumbartonshire
  • Argyll and Bute

SEPA says it will recommend that the UK Government introduce various economic instruments such as raw material charges to encourage recycling and taxes on services and activities such as the Landfill Tax (see related story).

Targets will be set in line with those in the EC Landfill Directive. In the event of targets not being met, SEPA will urge the Scottish executive to make changes to current legislation. In addition, an integrated waste data system to gather information on waste arisings and disposal routes will be set up.

Other areas that must be addressed include:

  • the introduction of waste segregation at source
  • more investment during the transition period
  • raising of awareness among businesses and householders of the costs of dealing with their waste
  • the renegotiation of long term contracts between private sector waste management companies and local authorities

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