Such a Waste!

Official Statistics released  the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) show that Scotland’s local authorities recycled 43.6% of the household waste they collected in the three months between April 2011 and June 2011. Twelve of the 32 local authorities recycled more than 50% of the household waste collected during this quarter.

SEPA has changed the basis on which they calculate this. Only household waste is now used to measure Scotland’s progress towards the recycling targets (no longer Local Authority Collected Municipal Waste (LACMW), as up to 2010/11). Household waste includes household collection rounds, bulky waste collections and waste deposited at household recycling points/ bring banks.

The new definition excludes non-domestic properties which were previously counted, such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools, universities, caravan/campsites, prison, penal and charity institutions and even royal palaces—not that we have many of those. To move away from a focus on landfill diversion and towards high quality recycling of materials, recycling has also been more narrowly defined. Stats by council are shown in the table below; there are still wide variations.

Recycling Rates in Scotland 2011/12 by Council (source: SEPA)

Several councils are disadvantaged by this recalculation: Argyll & Bute’s recycling drops from 40.4% to 28.2% and Dumfries & Galloway’s from 48.6% to 20.7%. But, like another half-dozen councils, both have significant waste recovery operations (e.g. Dundee’s DERL waste incinerator & 10MW generator) that bring respective percentages for waste going to landfill down to 57.3% and 42.6% respectively. That’s actually not bad for scattered rural areas. Ideally, the amount going to landfill should be as small as possible.

In the last decade, most councils have made significant strides from recycling less than 10% of their waste and putting the rest into finite landfill. Certainly, steeply rising landfill taxes have encouraged change but the public have also embraced recycling and made the councils’ job easier. Most urban areas have kerb-side paper, metal, glass and plastic uplifts and councils are rolling this out to many rural districts too. Most have reached the Government’s 2013 target of 50% already. Eilean Siar shows the worst statistics for percentage of waste landfilled but 3,500 tonnes is under 1% of all of Scotland and they have an understandable headache in reaching their residents scattered thinly across multiple islands.

Most reprehensible are those urban areas that have yet to engage with this problem. Both Aberdeen and Edinburgh are still landfilling 50,000 tonnes between them but they have had huge fiscal headaches left from previous administrations to solve and plans for joint waste plants in their area fell through. But bottom of the league come the three of the five largest Scottish councils: Glasgow and the two Lanarkshires together landfill over 100,000 tonnes—well over one tonne from them for three in all the rest of Scotland.

Given a current tax rate of £56 per tonne, that means that some of the most deprived areas in Europe are paying £5.6m simply for the privilege of throwing things away. (Note: this does not include the actual cost of collecting and disposing of waste—simply what the UK Government rakes off the top as a ‘green’ tax).

That costs every punter in Glasgow and Lanarkshire a fiver each. For which they get absolutely nothing.

Is that not a waste?

About davidsberry

Local ex-councillor, tour guide and database designer. Keen on wildlife, history, boats and music. Retired in 2017.
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