The Scottish Government has said it is working with local authorities that have yet to procure waste treatment solutions ahead of the country’s ban on biodegradable municipal waste to landfill.
And, officials have expressed frustration that many councils are ‘unprepared’ for the ban – which is due to come into effect from 2021.
The comments came from Janet McVea, Scottish Government’s head of zero waste unit, and Peter Lang, national waste manager at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) – who were speaking at the Scottish LARAC Conference in Glasgow last week (2 May).
Research carried out on behalf of the Scottish Government by consultancy firm Eunomia, published last month, has suggested that some councils and businesses are unprepared for the ban, having failed to put in place arrangements for the treatment of waste beyond 2021 (see letsrecycle.com story).
The Office for Budget Responsibility has warned that this would ‘mostly benefit UK tax receipts’ if a significant volume of waste is sent to landfill sites in the north of England (see letsrecycle.com story).
The issue was addressed at the conference by Ms McVea who said it was ‘disappointing’ that many councils look unlikely to meet the deadline for the ban.
“Our focus continues to be working with authorities and commercial operators who don’t yet have solutions in place to identify ways, whether that be collaborative procurement or further work to improve recycling and waste minimisation on ways that they can comply with the ban.”Janet McVea
And, she told delegates that the Scottish Government is seeking to work with authorities and commercial operators on procurement strategies ahead of the deadline.
She said: “The waste markets study which some of you may have picked up does show that significant progress has been made by many towards delivering the ban by 2021, with more than half local authorities having long term or interim solutions in place.
“But, it is disappointing that the report did confirm that there are significant challenges being faced in delivering the ban within the current timeline. And the uncertainty of some local authorities and commercial businesses to deliver it.”
On steps that the Scottish Government is taking ahead of the ban, she added: “Our focus continues to be working with authorities and commercial operators who don’t yet have solutions in place to identify ways, whether that be collaborative procurement or further work to improve recycling and waste minimisation on ways that they can comply with the ban.”
The looming landfill ban deadline was also addressed at the conference by Mr Lang, who confirmed that there is likely to be a significant gap in the capacity of available energy from waste treatment infrastructure in Scotland and waste.
“It is obvious Scotland isn’t going to have the infrastructure in place by 2021 to deal with the municipal waste that it is producing,” he commented.
“At the moment the estimate of that capacity gap in the first year of that ban coming into place is around-about 1 million tonnes per annum. There is a significant amount of waste out there that looks like it has not got a home, and there is no Scottish solution in place for that waste.“
On SEPA’s current work ahead of the ban, he said: “We have been in contact with all 32 local authorities to provide us with a level of information about the plans and the contracts that they have in place.”
He added: “We have looked at the preparation in regard to capacity up to the ban, we have looked in regard to Brexit when it looked like it was happening in the Spring and we will have to look at that again when it comes to pass. We will have to look again post ban when it comes to capacity.
“However, there is also the preparation with regard to people procuring solutions. One of the things that became clear before and from the Eunomia report is that there are significant parts of the country where there is work to be done, and there is no particular solution in sight for deadline date.
“At the moment I am talking to you 18 months in advance of deadline date and really there is no time at all there – we are already behind where we should be. It is concerning that there is a significant proportion of the country that don’t know what they’re doing.”