In September the Scottish Government announced plans for a Circular Economy Bill. This bill is to be a central part of plans to make Scotland a “net zero society” for greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, tackling Scotland’s “throwaway culture” and attitudes towards waste.

The Government launched a consultation paper with its outline proposals on 7 November, along with a six-week consultation exercise which concluded on 19 December.

What is the circular economy?

The current linear economic model is one of “take-make-dispose”.  Resources are taken from the environment, made into goods, which are often used for only a short while before being disposed of, typically in landfill.

The circular economy is an alternative that has “reduce-reuse-recycle” at its heart. In the circular economy resources and goods are kept in use for as long as possible. Manufactured items are designed to last and to be easy to repair. When items have reached the end of their useful lives they are broken down into their constituent parts and remanufactured into new goods or disposed of sustainably, closing the circle.

Central to the circular economy is an emphasis on using as many recyclable and biodegradable elements as possible, along with renewable forms of energy, energy efficiency, and eco-friendly forms of transport – all ultimately minimising the environmental impact. Because circular economy emphasises recycling and reuse over disposal, waste is ultimately turned from liability into an asset which is available for repurposing and remanufacture.

What does the new bill propose?

The Government states that the proposed bill will “embed an innovative approach to reducing, reusing and recycling materials” as well as helping “deal with items that we know cause environmental harm”.

The Government’s proposals for comment include the expansion of charges for single-use disposable items.  Following the example of the single-use plastic bag charge, which itself is to be increased from 5p to 10p per bag, similar charges will be rolled out in the future to single-use items which are difficult to recycle and which could be replaced with sustainable alternatives. One of the first to be affected will be single-use beverage cups; these are responsible for generating an estimated 4,000 tonnes of waste every year and the Government plans to introduce a charge of up to 25p to encourage consumers to switch to reusable cups.

To encourage waste reduction, with a view to encouraging reuse and redistribution, businesses will have to make public reports of waste and unwanted surplus stock. This will initially cover the food sector, however this requirement may be extended into other waste streams such as textiles.

A fixed-penalty regime will be introduced to cover littering from vehicles, and enforcement bodies will be permitted to seize vehicles involved in waste crimes.

Finally, local authorities will be required to improve recycling rates. They, and other public bodies, will be required to document how they will meet circular economy obligations in their procurement strategies.

Next steps

The consultation exercise has now completed and the Scottish Government is considering the responses received. These will feed into the policy process and the Government will publish its final proposals later in the year.  We will continue to update you on the progress of this legislation on our Energy Transition page.

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