Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) Statisticians

SEPA publish Official Statistics yesterday (17 September 2019) which provide details of Household Waste collected across all Local Authorities during 2018. Rather depressingly they show an overall decline in recycling rates across Scotland, to 44.7%, a decrease of 0.9 percentage points from the 45.5% rate achieved in 2016.

Even worse when you consider that the actual recycling rate being achieved at the household level (not taking into account recyclate recovered at Household Waste Recycling centres or waste treatment facilities) is probably nearer 30%.

We routinely get asked by councils to provide waste compositional analysis of their residual waste and regularly find at least 30% of the waste and sometimes up to 50% could have been presented in recycling bins. As well as an improvement to the environment this presents councils with an opportunity to reduce costs for disposal.

Over the last 10 years there has been a huge investment in bins and collections systems, but this has not been backed up by a campaign (or a “stick”) to get the public to participate. Councils need support nationally to –

  • Enforce the use of food waste recycling – at least 50% of the population do not use and view this as optional.
  • Put investment into enforcing contamination policies – this includes both contamination of recyclate with non target material and contamination of residual waste with recyclate. And if necessary, an effective method of enforcing and applying a fine
  • Engaging with councillors and politicians to back and support these essential changes.

As a sector we can and must do better – with the huge attention focusing on plastics and climate emergency we have an ideal opportunity to drive behaviour change!