Category Archives: Waste Analysis

The Garden Waste Debate

The Garden Waste Debate: Exploring Scotland’s Permit System

In recent years, many councils across Scotland have implemented a permit system for garden waste collection, raising questions about its effectiveness and fairness. With 21 out of 32 councils now charging for garden waste collection, it’s crucial to examine whether these permits are a sensible approach to managing green waste. Let’s delve into the debate surrounding garden waste permits and assess their impact on both residents and local authorities.

 Why Permits?

Garden waste permits have been introduced to offset the costs associated with collecting and processing green waste. By charging residents for this service, councils aim to recover some of the expenses incurred in managing garden waste collections. However, the decision to implement permits has sparked a debate about whether this approach is the most equitable and efficient solution.

 Cost vs. Convenience

For residents, the introduction of garden waste permits raises concerns about affordability and accessibility. While some may be willing to pay for the convenience of kerbside collection, others may view the additional expense as an unnecessary burden. With limited options for disposing of garden waste without a permit, many residents will use their local recycling centre to ensure their waste is composted. Unfortunately, some might simply use their residual waste collection, increasing the amount of organic waste in residual bins. Given the cost differential for disposing of residual waste (approximately £160 per tonne) versus garden waste (approximately £30 per tonne), this could have a significant impact on council budgets. Research is still needed to evaluate the revenue from permits against the increased costs of disposing of additional residual waste.

 Council Considerations

From the perspective of local authorities, garden waste permits offer a potential source of revenue while encouraging waste reduction and recycling. By charging for garden waste collection, councils aim to incentivize residents to compost or recycle their green waste independently, thereby reducing the overall volume of waste sent to landfill. However, the effectiveness of this approach depends on residents’ willingness to comply with the permit system and explore alternative waste management options. The most environmentally sustainable solution is home composting, which eliminates the need for collection and disposal, yet few councils actively promote this option when providing information about garden waste permits.

 Lack of Consistency

One notable aspect of Scotland’s garden waste permit system is the lack of consistency across councils. While some councils charge for garden waste collection, others include it as a free service within council tax. The frequency of collection also varies, with some councils offering weekly or bi-weekly services, while others collect every three or four weeks. This inconsistency highlights the absence of a standardized policy for managing garden waste at the national level, leading to varied experiences and expectations for residents depending on their local council’s policies.

Price Disparity

The graphs we’ve compiled using data from all Scottish councils illustrate the price per brown bin collection and the annual permit charge. Prices range from free to £60 per year, with West Dunbartonshire Council being the most expensive. However, when examining the cost per collection, South Ayrshire Council tops the charts at £3.84 per collection, while East Renfrewshire Council is the cheapest at £1 per collection.


The debate surrounding garden waste permits in Scotland underscores the complexities of balancing cost, convenience, and environmental sustainability in waste management. While permits offer a potential revenue stream for councils and theoretically promote waste reduction by encouraging home composting, they also raise questions about fairness and accessibility for residents.

Research into these changes would be beneficial—for example, identifying the most cost-effective collection frequency for garden waste, quantifying how much garden waste ends up in residual waste with a charging scheme, and evaluating the carbon impact of residents traveling to recycling centres regularly. Most council decision-makers seem to have taken a simplistic approach, viewing permits primarily as a revenue opportunity, without fully considering the implications for effective waste management, recycling, and carbon reduction.

As Scotland continues to grapple with these challenges, achieving consistency and clarity in garden waste policies across councils will be essential to ensuring an equitable and effective approach to green waste management.

Resource Management Association Scotland (RMAS) Site visit to Optimum Eco Group – Restructa Ltd. and CCL (North) Ltd.

Resource Management Association Scotland (RMAS) Site visit to Optimum Eco Group – Restructa Ltd. and CCL (North) Ltd.

We had the pleasure of taking part in the RMAS site visit to Optimum Eco Group, sites Restructa Ltd. and CCL (North) Ltd, both in Irvine.

After a brief catch up over tea/ coffee and pastries, we were spilt into groups and taken by bus to the first site, CCL (North) Ltd. Established in 2000, CCL is one of the UK’s leading specialists for secure data destruction, IT asset disposal and WEEE recycling. Here we were shown around the plant and the process from the items arriving, to them being stripped down and recovered or fixed and reused. There is a museum section where some of the rarer finds are kept and displayed and I was delighted to see a ZX Spectrum computer on show, which took me back to my own childhood memories of my first ever console.

The ’hands-on’ approach with the waste demonstrates incredible attention to detail and ensures every part that could be recovered or reused is able to be utilised elsewhere. I found the vape dismantling particularly interesting as I am seeing more and more discarded vapes everywhere I go. These were stripped down, batteries removed, and plastic sleeves separated to try and make use of as many parts of the vape as possible. This was done by hand and under a fume cupboard.

The handling of IT equipment and other data sensitive equipment was very well thought through to maintain sensitivity and security throughout for the client. We were able to see the process of shredding, and the vast difference from the assets that went into the shredder compared to what came out at the other side.

We were then taken to Restructa which was formed in 2005 in response to the UK Government’s Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive.

It focuses on the repair, reuse and recycling of display equipment from its 25,000sq ft facility, handling more than 1000 TVs every day. Restructa. has developed into a leading recycling and waste management provider.

The televisions and monitors arrive and are checked to see what is wrong with them to segregate those repairable from those requiring recycling. We learned that out of 650,00 televisions sent for recycle each year, 37,000 tv’s are repaired and go on to have an extended life by around 5 to 6 years and are used by those who need them most.

At both sites we saw their modern apprentices hard at work and learning new skill sets. It was very reassuring to hear that approximately 70% of apprentices go on to progress within the company.

One fascinating thing about our visit was being shown what happens to the old TV screens, the glass is processed on site and made into garden decorative pebbles and chips, that has an opaque quality and let’s light shine through meaning the old TV screens become part of garden décor, water features and I was given some myself which I look forward to adding to my plant pot.

The other incredible piece of technology we were shown was the POPs (Persistent organic pollutants) testing system that Optimum Eco Group have developed, which tells you if a television backing can be recycled or not, thus increasing recyclable material. The manufacturing industry has no current responsibility to tell us what chemicals are in the items they produce, meaning they are less likely to consider the cradle to grave concept and how easy their product is to be recycled at end-of-life and this responsibility now falls to the waste industry to deal with.  

Our visit gave me lots of food for thought and great chat over lunch and it was so nice to see an organisation, not only doing what they should, but going above and beyond showing best practice and actively looking for the next best thing. How great it would be if everyone thought so carefully about their impact on the environment and what they can do better. RMAS does a great job of encouraging knowledge sharing, networking and engagement as well as encouraging innovation.

RMAS is a not-for-profit, non-political membership organisation for micro, small and medium sized resource management companies operating in Scotland. They actively represent and support companies who are operating across the length and breadth of Scotland. RMAS ensure members are well informed and that priority issues, risks, and opportunities are communicated, and represented effectively to Government, its various agencies, the commercial sector and the public.

I am grateful to RMAS and Optimum Eco Group for arranging the day and provoking the conversation that followed as a result. A truly informative site visit and lunch.

Albion’s ABC of Waste Management – Q – Quality Recyclate

How good are your recycling habits? Do you understand how your habits can impact the success of whole recycling operations?

Recycling helps to reduce the carbon emitted from creating new things; it is a crucial aspect of sustainable resource use; and if waste materials are recycled, they are less likely to wind up polluting the environment.

However, the waste recycling industry faces a number of issues – for example, right now it is struggling to maintain the resources it requires to keep up with its demands amid the health crisis we are currently facing due to COVID-19.

Additionally, in a typical year (one that is not hugely affected by a global pandemic!), it can be difficult to find a market for recycled end-products. It can also be hard for waste management companies to source high-quality input materials for the recycling process.

The potential lack of good input materials can hamper the quantity and quality of the new raw materials produced by recycling.

Even just a small amount of waste contamination within incoming materials can wipe out the value of the end-product resources.

Waste management can generally be improved with better collection and sorting of recycling waste. Furthermore, awareness on which materials can and cannot be recycled, and which waste streams should be used for various items, could be enhanced, both within industry and in the public sphere.

For instance, here at Albion we recently conducted a waste compositional survey for a local authority, and found high levels of contamination within multiple waste streams.

The council in question provides householders with multiple types of recycling bins (alongside a residual bin), and each of the bins studied contained some level of contamination:

  • Metal and plastic bins – 13% of the waste content should have been placed in a different type of recycling bin and 19% should have been put in the residual waste bin
  • Paper and card bins – 7% of the waste content should have been placed in a different type of recycling bin and 10% should have been put in the residual waste bin
  • Glass bins – 22% of the waste content should have been placed in a different type of recycling bin and 6% should have been put in the residual waste bin
  • Residual bins – 72.3% of the materials could have been recycled.

Clearly, householders are often getting it wrong when using their recycling bins. This offers an opportunity for enhancing waste management, and more specifically, the quality of recyclates. To increase recyclate quality, it is crucial that more focus is given to education on how to dispose of recyclable materials correctly. Organisations using measures to learn exactly what is in their waste stream, and investing time and money into developing innovative ways to efficiently separate their waste on-site, can often benefit from lower disposal costs, and new revenues.

Here at Albion, we have qualified, experience consultants that can conduct waste analyses, and also help provide expert solutions on how a business or council could improve its waste sorting and collection processes, as well as highlighting the materials that ought to be targeted for this. Upon passing over our findings, we can sit down with the relevant teams and assist in the development of an informed, effective strategy for improving quality of recyclates. Find out more about how we can help with waste compositional surveys here.

Albions ABC of Waste Management – M Materials Recovery Facility

Are you aware of your obligations under the Waste (Recyclate Quality) (Scotland) Regulations 2015?  Albion’s Waste Compositional Analysis team have been providing bespoke training support and ad-hoc expert advice on the requirements for waste sampling and data provision.

A Material Recovery Facility (MRF) is a facility where collected commercial and or household recyclable waste is sorted into different material types. The so called ‘Dirty’ MRFs are those which only accept and sort residual waste.

  • Are you aware of your obligations under the Waste (Recyclate Quality) (Scotland) Regulations 2015?
  • Do you know what data should be reported?
  • Are you aware of the sampling protocol that should be followed?

Since 2015, the sampling and testing at MRFs are covered by two main statutory documents:

  • the Code of Practice on Sampling and Reporting at Materials Recovery Facilities – it aims to improve the quality of output materials by developing standardised testing processes and reporting mechanisms for all input and output materials
  • the Collection and Reporting of Material Recovery Facilities (MRF) Data guidance – it aims to assist operators in complying with the Code of Practice data form. The data reporting is a requirement as set out in the Waste (Recyclate Quality) (Scotland) Regulations 2015 and the associated statutory Code of Practice on Sampling and Reporting at Materials Recovery Facilities.


Both statutory documents above apply to those facilities who hold a licence or permit and that receive/ are likely to receive 1,000 tonnes or more of mixed dry recyclable materials (comprising of two or more materials) or separately collected dry recyclable waste for sorting, over a 12-month period.

Examples of facilities excluded from the Code:

  • Household Waste Recycling Centres (Civic Amenity Sites)
  • MRFs receiving and sorting residual waste only (‘Dirty’ MRFs)
  • Waste Transfer Stations acting only as bulking point (with no sorting activities)
  • WEEE management facilities
  • RDF production facilities
  • MBTs – unless mixed dry recyclable waste is accepted for any MRF operations that form part of the process

Brief on Requirements

The Code of Practice sets out the requirements for sampling, including weight, frequency, reporting periods, measurement and materials to be sampled, and the information to be recorded and reported to SEPA. It requires that MRFs identify materials in relation to what is defined as:

  • Target Material – A material that is specifically targeted by the MRF licence or permit holder as destined to be separated out from other material to facilitate its recycling.
  • Non-target Material – A material that is capable of being recycled but is not a target material for the MRF.
  • Non-Recyclable Material – Waste material that is not capable of being recycled.

Target material that is found in a sample must, as a minimum, be separately identified in the following types:

  • Glass
  • Paper
  • Cardboard
  • Metal
  • Plastic

How we can help

Albion is an experienced training organisation and delivers a wide range of training for organisations across the UK.

Albion’s Waste Compositional Analysis team have been providing training support and ad-hoc expert advice on the requirements based on the MRF statutory documents.

We delivered MRF sampling training programme on behalf of Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) across all MRF operations in Scotland. We have received approval, from ZWS to use this training material (which is still current and relevant).

Training support can be tailored for each facility’s needs and activities. In general, the approach we have used with clients include the following:

  • Session 1 (Half Day Theory) – This session will work through the Code of Practice and is relevant for Directors, Managers, Supervisors and also the staff that carry out the quality sampling.
  • Session 2 (Full Day Practical) – Deliver one day practical sampling and sorting session for a minimum of 3 staff (max. to be agreed) at your facility, using your equipment.
  • Site Specific MRF Sampling Plan – Using information provided for the training we will provide a Site Specific MRF Sampling Plan for your facility, which can then be integrated into your company procedures.
  • We can also assist with undertaking waste compositional analysis surveys in accordance with relevant guidance.

To find out more or to have an informal chat please contact Jane Bond


Albion staff successfully achieve accredited Scottish Qualification Certificate in HE0T 33 Planning and Delivering Training Sessions to Groups giving them the confidence and skill set to be able to deliver training sessions to our clients.

The qualification is intended for candidates with vocational expertise or subject knowledge whose job role includes the training of others in small group settings (minimum four, maximum seven learners) and in work related learning contexts. It is also suitable for those who aspire to a training role, or who expect to have some responsibility for training as part of a future job role. To find out more please contact us.

Congratulations to Jane Bond (Project & Business Development Director), Andrew Howlett (Principal Consultant), Fraser Christie (Environmental Consultant and Site Technician) and Chris Eccles (Environmental Technician) on their success.

Thank you to trainers Craig Chandler and Davie Fraser for their enthusiastic course delivery on what is a very interactive and engaging course.