Key Scottish Circular Economy Consultations

United Kingdom

Until 22 August 2022 the Scottish Government is consulting on key legal and policy proposals to progress the move to a circular economy. The consultations invite views on the priorities and actions for the Route Map to 2025 and beyond, and on the intended legislation, the proposed Circular Economy Bill. Strategically important, the consultations will have direct impact on many, and could be a marker for future proposals within the rest of the UK.  There are significant measures proposed, only some of which are outlined below. Timescales associated with proposed changes are purposefully short so business should examine the detail carefully, respond to the consultations and consider how the suggested proposals may present opportunities and any challenges for existing practices. 

A Route Map to 2025 and beyond

The Route Map sets out how Scotland intends to deliver its circular economy vision and zero waste ambitions, identifying tangible actions required to achieve change. The consultation seeks views on the strategic approach to meeting the necessary goals in place between now and 2025 and to 2030. The proposed priorities of the Route Map include:

  • promoting and supporting responsible production which includes keeping pace with the EU’s Sustainable Product Initiative;

  • reducing food waste from households and businesses;

  • significantly improving recycling from households and businesses;

  • embedding circular construction practices;

  • minimising the impact of disposal of waste that cannot be reused or recycled, including to investigate fiscal measures to encourage low carbon disposal; and

  • strengthening data and evidence, sustainable procurement practices, and skills and training.

The Route Map calls on the UK Government to consider new fiscal measures to influence behaviour, including consideration of the role of VAT to encourage sustainable choices, measures to reduce consumption of unsustainable material, and boost the competitiveness of recycled materials, measures to influence global markets and reduce imported and exported emissions including the “phase out” of exports of waste by 2030.

The consumption proposals are heavily detailed in the accompanying consultation. Proposals which are slightly less signposted in that consultation include circular construction and disposal packages.

Under “embed circular construction package” measures include coordination of a Scottish Programme for Reuse of Construction Materials and Assets, the potential use of recycling bonds to divert material from landfill, review of how devolved taxes can incentivise the use of secondary aggregates and support circular economy practices, work with industry to identify ways to reduce soil and stones going to landfill and facilitating the development of a soil symbiosis programme.

Under “the impact of disposal” measures suggested include a Residual Waste Plan to set strategic direction for management of residual waste to 2045, restriction of the incineration of fossil materials, through the development of a sector-led plan by 2024, investigating fiscal measures to incentivise low carbon disposal, including the  potential to include energy from waste in the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

In terms of skills and training opportunities, areas with high potential for growth are to be prioritised  such as preparation for reuse standards or repair training to enhance the life of products. There will also be a review of areas where regulations could enhance circular economic opportunities in relation to the procurement of goods, works or services.

A Circular Economy Bill

The aim of the Bill is to bring forward the primary legislation needed to underpin the key policy measures and interventions that are explored in the Route Map.

The objectives of the Bill are stated to be:

  • Reduction in material use from consumption

  • Reducing carbon and resource footprint

  • Maximising economic opportunities

  • Reducing waste

  • Increasing recycling rates and quality of recyclate

  • Reducing litter

13 proposals form part of the wider plans for a step-change in the approach to reducing, reusing and recycling materials. The policy proposals for the Bill have been split into the following themes:

  • Strategic Interventions;

  • Reduce and Reuse;

  • Recycling; and

  • Littering and Improving Enforcement.

Strategic Interventions

These proposals are:-

  • a duty to publish or refresh a Circular Economy Strategy every 5 years. This would include a ‘monitoring framework’ to track Scotland’s consumption levels and wider measures of circularity whilst ensuring that the wider social, economic and environmental impacts are taken into account.

  • Powers to set statutory circular economy targets to tackle consumption reduction, including reuse, to create a focus for action and maintain alignment with the direction of EU policy.

  • Establishment of circular economy public body.

Reduce and Reuse

There is a stated aim for Scotland to keep pace as far as powers allow with the EU Sustainable Products Initiative. As elements of product standards and labelling and consumer protection, are reserved, the Scottish Government state that they look to work with UK administrations to take forward joint action where appropriate and utilise powers available under the Environment Act 2021 to keep pace with emerging polices from the Sustainable Products Initiative.

The proposals in this area include:-

  • Measures to ban the destruction of unsold durable goods.

  • Environmental charging for single-use items.

  • Powers to require mandatory public reporting of unwanted surplus stock and waste of certain materials.

  • Driving local improvements to achieve consistently high recycling rates across Scotland.

  • Powers to set recycling targets for local authorities to improve local recycling performance and associated powers on financial incentives and penalties.

  • Amending the Duty of Care for households: wider powers to ensure that appropriate incentives for recycling are in place, and local authorities can properly ensure responsibilities are met.

  • Incentivising waste reduction and recycling (households).

  • Powers to enable Local Authorities to create zoning areas for commercial waste collections.

Article co-authored by Amy Hammond, Trainee Solicitor at CMS.