Scottish councils seeking ‘consistent’ waste policies

Scottish councils are being encouraged to sign up to a recycling collections charter with the aim of establishing ‘consistency’ amongst collection strategies for each of the country’s 32 local authorities.

Work on the charter is being led by the Zero Waste Taskforce, a joint initiative between the Scottish Government, the Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) and Zero Waste Scotland.

Scottish councils are being encouraged to adopt 'consistent' policies around waste collection and communiciations
Scottish councils are being encouraged to adopt ‘consistent’ policies around waste collection and communiciations

The charter is being developed in tandem with a Code of Practice for councils which will determine best practice for collection services. Organisers say that the initiative is also aimed at embedding ‘circular economy’ practices within councils.

Among the provisions in the charter is a commitment to establish common collection systems for paper, card, glass, plastics, metal and food waste, as well as ensuring that all residents have access to services.

Councils signing up to the charter will also seek to give a consistent definition of materials – with the aim of ‘eradicating discrepancies’ over what can and cannot be recycled in Scotland’s different localities.


Signatories will also be asked to deliver consistent policies on waste and recycling, including providing sufficient waste collection capacity for residents and consistency over non-collection of contaminated material.

Explaining the rationale for the charter, councillor Stephen Hagan COSLA’s spokesman for development, economy and sustainability and the co-chair of the Zero Waste Taskforce said that it would not be a ‘prescriptive’ document for local authorities, but would provide a framework for them to tailor collection systems.

He said: “We’re not trying to impose a set of rules, more to create a structure and provide opportunities to learn good practice from other people.

“This will include consistent communications and policies. It will provide a landscape – we’re not saying that every council will collect this type of waste in this bin. It is about having more consistent messaging and this is designed to be a framework for people to operate in.”

Local authority leaders were given a first draft of the Charter and Code of Practice at a COSLA meeting in Edinburgh late last month, and wording of the document is being finalised, with the aim that councils will commit to signing the charter later this year.


Work to develop a recycling charter in Scotland comes as the Scottish Government puts the finishing touches to its Recycling Brokerage, which is due to be available to local authorities this autumn.

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The brokerage, originally unveiled by Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead in late 2014, is being developed by the Scottish Government’s procurement team, and is designed to provide a joint platform for local authorities to market and trade materials.

Around 20 Scottish authorities are known to be interested in using the brokerage, which will be available for the sale of glass from later this year.

Speaking to Zero Waste Scotland director Iain Gulland said he viewed the brokerage as a ‘game changer’ for Scottish local authorities, and that the system would help to reduce the level of volatility that councils are exposed to when trading commodities.

“The reason for that is to try and harness the value of the 3 million tonnes of material coming through the public sector, one of the ways of doing that is to present it to market in a way that both increases the value in terms of scale but also shape the potential in terms of reprocessing or sorting opportunities in Scotland,” Mr Gulland explained.

“I’ve always said that it seems bizarre that local authorities are always on the phone trying to do deals for commodities that are very volatile. Local authority officers are focussed on the day job of doing the collections and trying to communicate with the public. Having a brokerage means that the onward sale of the materials is taken collectively so I would think local authorities on the ground would welcome this.

“Hopefully they’ll be able to offer that material at a better price and it will negate some of that volatility. At the height of that you have got councils who are putting together a committee paper saying we’re going to market and will predict we get ‘£x’ for materials and then in six months the market has changed.”

The materials brokerage is expected to come into effect before the end of the year – with an initial joint contract for glass to be offered to participating authorities.

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