12 January 2001

Scottish report finds under reporting of active waste landfilling

The Scottish Executive has released evidence that some landfill operators in Scotland may be failing to report the disposal of active waste to Customs and Excise which could mean the avoidance of large amounts of landfill tax payments.

The finding comes in a study which found a discrepancy in data between what Customs and Excise believe was landfilled in 1997 and 1998 and what waste collection authorities considered was landfilled.
Customs and Excise found a 745,000 tonnes drop in the amount of active waste landfilled over the period whereas the collection authority data showed there was an increase of 17% in the amount of general waste (category code 20 00 00) landfilled in both years.
If material is not reported landfill tax will not be paid.

The findings come in the first of two reports published today: Review of the environmental effects of the Landfill Tax in Scotland by Environ; and Scottish waste statistics for 1997 and 1998, by Environmental Resources Management.

The Environ report says that because some landfill businesses may register in England it does not provide any explanation for the reported decline in quantities of waste landfilled compared to Customs data.

Environ also found that quantities of inactive material landfilled in Scotland from 1997-1998 dropped by up to 27%. Alongside the fall, the number of waste management licensing exemptions granted rose dramatically from 197 in 1996 to 821 in 1997 and 826 in 1998.

The research by Environ found that Scotland’s local authorities achieved a recycling rate of 2.5% in 1997 rising to 3.5% in 1998.

Brave face
The Scottish Executive tried to put a brave face on both reports saying they suggested they showed a move towards recycling. It issued a statement saying that environment minister Sam Galbraith welcomed the publication of two research reports which indicated a reduction in the amount of waste being sent to landfill.

But, he failed to comment publicly on the issue of discrepancies in the data and on any possible landfill tax avoidance.

Other key findings of both reports include:
– The principal route for disposal of controlled waste is landfill with 14 million tonnes deposited in 1997 and 11.9 million tonnes in 1998. The reduction was identified as principally due to a reduction in the quantity of construction and demolition waste deposited at landfill sites.
– Local authorities collected about 93,000 tonnes of waste for recycling 1997, declining to 91,000 tonnes in 1998, consisting of 50% paper and 35% glass.
– Waste collection authorities have experienced on average a 3% yearly rise in the amount of waste collected, but a 13% drip in the quantity of inactive waste collected. Inactive waste has accounted for about 8% of waste collected by WCAs over the study period.

Full and summary copies of both research documents are available from Miss L Curran, Scottish Executive, Central Research Unit, Area 2-J, Victoria Quay, EH6 8QQ. Tel 0131-244-7560. It is also due to be available at Scottish reports.

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