Getting serious about waste

Jane Gaston of Peel Environmental discusses the likely impact of the Zero Waste Regulations, and their implications for the packaging sector. Private investment is needed to help Scotland realise its zero waste ambitions, she suggests.

An artist’s impresson of the South Clyde Energy Centre, which will separate recyclables at the front end in addition to generating energy from waste.

THE UK produces around 10 million tonnes of packaging waste every year. The pressure on businesses to reduce, reuse and recycle the amount of waste that is created shows no sign of abating as the UK Governments look to meet increasingly ambitious recycling and landfill diversion targets. Nowhere is the drive for resource efficiency as high as in Scotland.

The publication of the Scottish Zero Waste Plan in 2010 and its subsequent passing through the Scottish Parliament as the Waste (Scotland) Regulations in May 2012 heralded a new era for the treatment of waste in Scotland. The regulations, which came into force on 1st January this year, place requirements on the disposal, collection and treatment of waste.
Described as the “most significant development in recycling that Scotland has ever seen” the regulations are designed to maximise the value from materials that are currently thrown away and help Scotland reach its ambitious target of 70% recycling of all waste by 2025. The regulations apply to all businesses and organisations in Scotland, including packaging manufacturers. In short, businesses will be required to separate out key materials – such as metals, plastics, glass, paper and card – for recycling, with an explicit ban on these products going to landfill or incineration.
However, Scotland has further to go than its UK counterparts. In 2011/12, Scotland’s municipal recycling rate was 41.2% compared to 52% in Wales and 43.6% in England. When it comes to packaging waste in 2011 it was estimated that 50-52% of Scottish packaging waste was recycled compared to the total UK recycling rate of 59-61%.
Whereas the producer responsibility legislation across England, Scotland and Wales require businesses that handle more than 50 tonnes of packaging a year – and have a turnover of more than £2m – to recover and recycle packaging waste, the Scottish Zero Waste Regulations apply to businesses large and small.

Infrastructure Issues
Not only do businesses have to be aware of the new requirements, and ensure they have systems in place, it is also important to have the necessary infrastructure in place to separate out and treat this recycled material.
Last month the Scottish Government launched a £3.8m fund to help Scottish businesses to develop or expand reprocessing and remanufacturing facilities in Scotland. The Scottish Recycling Fund is aimed at increasing the reuse and reprocessing capacity in Scotland for eligible materials, including plastics, textiles, industrial food & drink processing waste and glass, in order to help meet the new regulations.
However, this fund alone will not provide the capacity needed to meet the regulations. Private investment into waste management infrastructure is needed to bring forward the facilities that can separate out recyclable materials and help businesses meet their zero waste obligations.
In Scotland, Peel Environmental already has two facilities consented – the 24MW South Clyde Energy Centre (SCEC) in Glasgow (see image, above) and the North Clyde Recycling Centre (NCRC) in West Dunbartonshire, both of which include the front end separation of recyclables followed by Energy from Waste (EfW) technology to generate energy from the remaining waste.
As a company, we do not operate waste infrastructure, but work with waste management companies, investors and contractors to deliver appropriately scaled and located waste infrastructure. The focus with SCEC and NCRC is to now bring together the right combination of investors and operating partners to deliver these facilities and provide a viable solution to help businesses achieve their waste management obligations. The waste management sector in Scotland represents a solid investment opportunity backed by a regulatory framework and clear Zero Waste policy.
We should, in the spirit of achieving a truly ‘zero waste’ Scotland, strive to continually move forward. Clearly, the main focus should be on waste prevention and the maximisation of recycling above energy recovery, but we also need to start viewing waste as the valuable resource it can be. In order to do this, we need to develop a modern, fit-for-purpose waste management system of which Scotland can be proud.
• As a division of the Peel Group, Peel Environmental is responsible for the delivery and management of infrastructure for the waste, minerals and environmental technology sectors.