Waste Management Debate

Better guidance is needed on the Zero Waste Strategy.

The Scottish Government has outlined a Zero Waste Strategy which aims to see at least 70% of our waste recycled and no more than 5% being sent to landfill by 2025.

Last week I spoke in Labour’s debate on our concerns surrounding waste management in Scotland.

While there is broad support for the ambition set out in the Zero Waste Plan there are serious doubts over the Scottish Government’s ability to meet these targets.

Of particular concern is the lack of a coherent national approach from the Scottish Government regarding planning guidelines.  This has led to confusion among local authorities and concern in local communities when applications for waste incineration projects are being considered.

In my speech I raised two particular issues which highlight the problem.  The first concerns the so-called ‘proximity principle’ – the belief that waste should be treated as close to where it was created as possible.

Under this principle, you would expect that any application for a waste treatment facility would need to demonstrate that there was demand for the service in a local area.  However, the Scottish Government have failed to define clearly their interpretation of what constitutes “proximity” and the guidance that is available seems to give carte blanche to developers to make parts of Scotland hubs for dealing with large amounts of waste.

The second issue concerns changes made to guidance for Local Authorities.  Under previous guidance, Local Authorities were compelled to notify the Scottish Government where a development that they were planning to approve met one of the criteria set out for in Scottish Government guidance; for example where the development breached a local development plan or could impact on a neighbouring local authority.  The Scottish Government would then assess the decision and formally decide whether to call it in for determination.   That meant a check on decisions and local people or their representatives could make the Scottish Government aware that they thought there was an argument that the Scottish Government should call the application in and determine it themselves or subject it to a public local inquiry.

However, new guidance severely restricts the number of instances where Ministers are notified thereby removing a layer of scrutiny to such proposals.

MSPs from across Scotland, including SNP Members, have opposed large-scale incinerator developments in their areas.  However, without clear guidance from the Scottish Government I am concerned that confusion and concern will continue in our communities.

If the Scottish Government is serious about meeting the targets set out in the Zero Waste Plan, it needs to ensure that Local Authorities have the tools to make the right decisions.   That includes robust guidance.   The lack of a proper assessment of the cumulative impact of proposals could be bad news for the wood products industry in the UK as there simply isn’t enough wood to meet the demand if all these big incinerators gain approval.  And if we can’t supply wood locally and it has to be imported then that doesn’t make sense in terms of our carbon emissions.

I’ve asked the Ministers a series of questions because I was disappointed at the lack of answers provided in the chamber.

Question S4W-02773 – Sarah Boyack ( Lothian ) (Scottish Labour ) (Date Lodged 15/09/2011 ) :

To ask the Scottish Executive whether it will introduce a selective ban on products for incineration similar to that introduced for landfill.

Question S4W-02774 – Sarah Boyack ( Lothian ) (Scottish Labour ) (Date Lodged 15/09/2011 ) :

To ask the Scottish Executive what benefits have arisen from the selective ban on products for landfill.

Question S4W-02775 – Sarah Boyack ( Lothian ) (Scottish Labour ) (Date Lodged 15/09/2011 ) :

To ask the Scottish Executive what plans it has to address the cumulative impact of proposals for (a) biomass and (b) incineration projects on wood supply.

Question S4W-02776 – Sarah Boyack ( Lothian ) (Scottish Labour ) (Date Lodged 15/09/2011 ) :

To ask the Scottish Executive whether it will address the scale of (a) biomass and (b) incineration projects in its changes to the National Waste Strategy.

Question S4W-02777 – Sarah Boyack ( Lothian ) (Scottish Labour ) (Date Lodged 15/09/2011 ) :

To ask the Scottish Executive what issues will be addressed in the new waste guidelines due to be published in autumn 2011.