Zero Waste Scotland – are you ready?

Scottish FlagChanges to legislation in the handling and disposal of waste in Scotland are just around the corner

Stephen Cameron from Scottish based waste management firm SWR offers some practical advice on the impending new Scottish Waste laws

If you run a business in Scotland, you will need to be prepared for the shake up in the laws that govern the way in which you handle and dispose of your waste.

The Waste (Scotland) Regulations make it the duty “of any person who produces, keeps or manages waste to make all such measures as reasonable in the circumstances, to apply the waste hierarchy.” The waste hierarchy classifies waste management options in order of their environmental impact, from prevention, minimisation, re-use, recycling, energy recovery and disposal, with of course disposal being the least favoured option. The Zero Waste philosophy ultimately aims to significantly reduce if not eliminate the disposal layer from this hierachy whilst promoting reduction, reuse and recycling of natural materials.

This directive has come from the highest levels within Scottish Government and is viewed as fundamental to driving the country’s economic strategy forward. The benefits to the country are thought to be substantial and it is estimated that implementing waste prevention measures could be worth in the region of £2.7bn to the Scottish economy, with the potential for a further £1.4bn worth of savings for businesses, through improved profitability and efficiencies.

Scotland's Zero Waste Plan (ZWP) sets out the Scottish Government's vision for a zero waste society and aims to transform the way in which resources are managed in Scotland. The target is to improve recycling rates to 70% and landfill diversion to 95% by 2025. The ZWP sets out key actions, including new targets, to tackle the near 20 million tonnes of waste produced in Scotland every year.

What it means for Scottish businesses

As of Jan 1st 2014 the first phase of new Waste Regulations in Scotland will require all businesses to separate paper, card, glass, plastic, wood and metals for recycling. To be clear, whilst segregating each stream separately is preferable, the regulations will permit recyclable waste streams to be co-mingled providing the material quality is not reduced as a result. The regulations will also make it compulsory for any business creating more than 50kg of food waste per week (the equivalent of half a household wheelie bin) to separate this waste for collection.

The initial impact will be most notable in the hospitality industry, with restaurants, pubs, and bars, being encouraged to lead the way. But why the focus on this particular sector? Eventually all businesses will be required to follow suit, regardless of the quantity of waste produced, however, reducing and better managing hospitality and food service waste is a cross-nation Government priority.

The hospitality industry has been identified as one with significant room for improvement. This is highlighted by a hospitality report undertaken by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), which determined that 3.4m tonnes of waste is produced by the sector with about half destined for landfill.

Starting with the hospitality sector, advice and guidance is being introduced to educate businesses how to use fewer resources and how to reduce the amount of waste produced. People are also being encouraged to rethink how they view waste. Rather than seeing it as a necessary evil, or simply an inert bi-product, waste should be considered a valuable resource.

The consequences of non-compliance

Businesses risk substantial fines if they do not take all measures possible to recycle their waste. Furthermore, contractors may refuse to collect waste that has not been properly segregated, so it’s important to understand the changes that need to be implemented sooner rather than later.

How do I implement the changes required?

A waste management and recycling specialist will be able to help you meet the requirements by evaluating the types and quantity of waste you produce, and identifying practical ways to segregate it at source within the space available. Part of this process may also involve identifying any operational changes that could be implemented to benefit the business, such as the installation of baling or crushing machines, if you produce large quantities of cardboard and glass. Utilising such machinery where viable can help to reduce collection frequencies and save space.

While the change is challenging, there is support available to help take those first important steps. Advice is available from a wide range of organisations such as Zero Waste Scotland, which has developed a free online facility to help develop a semi-bespoke waste prevention plan -

With the changes looming, there is no better time to take control of your waste and implement changes now that ensure you are ahead of the game in complying with the legislation. With the cost of general waste disposal being more expensive than recycling, it makes perfect financial and environmental sense to act now to adopt a resource efficient approach to your waste.

For further information on how to efficiently plan and manage your waste under the new regulations, get in touch with Stephen Cameron on 0800 038 0300 or visit 


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