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Industry at odds over standardised collections

The Scottish Environmental Services Association (SESA) has poured water on a plan to introduce standardised three-stream household collections in Scotland.

Following a deal announced by Scottish environment secretary Richard Lochhead and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla), from January councils will be asked to sign up to a voluntary “recycling charter” and code of practice.

The deal promotes a three-stream recycling system, with separated glass, paper and card, and metals and plastics. Residual and food waste collections will continue as normal.

Waste firm Viridor backed the move, and went further by lobbying a mandatory set of common standards for councils.

But SESA policy advisor Stephen Freeland argued the resources industry “doesn’t necessarily agree” there should be a uniform system.

“The resources industry has driven innovation in recycling and therefore doesn’t necessarily agree that a single collection system – as advocated by the charter’s accompanying code of practice - should be adopted uniformly across Scotland,” he said.

“Local authorities are best placed to recognise how to raise recycling rates in their local areas, in partnership with the private sector.”

He added that SESA supported the recycling charter’s bid to improve consistency in the quality of collected materials.

Viridor also said the existing local authority network of waste management in Scotland was ‘”no longer fit for purpose”.

In a report, ‘Building resource networks’, the company argued that new collection authorities should be set up to avoid decisions on collections and infrastructure being “based on arbitrary political boundaries by authorities not focused on the value of resources”.

Dan Cooke, Viridor’s director of external affairs, said: “Scottish recycling policy remains largely based on outdated assumptions about resources which reinforce expensive, resource management systems that were designed in a different age for a bygone era when collections were based on geographic areas and an overall objective of reducing transport costs.”

Cosla spokesman Stephen Hagan said: “Cosla leaders, by agreeing the principles of a more consistent approach to recycling across Scotland, have taken a step towards developing a hugely significant opportunity that will unlock the value in household waste, allowing councils to fully benefit from the economic opportunities associated with the recycling industry, creating jobs and delivering value for money services.”

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