Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of MRW, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Scotland prepares for a landfill ban

Laura Tainsh

MRW’s recent article on the likely financial impact of the 2021 landfill ban in Scotland sparked debate among readers about whether the industry should have been prepared for the move. So what are the ‘facts’ about the landfill ban on biodegradable municipal waste (BMW)?

We report on Scotland’s proposed landfill ban

A lack of waste infrastructure in Scotland could see councils and businesses being forced to send waste to England, and pay hefty haulage and landfill costs, once the Scottish landfill ban comes into force.

The Scottish Environmental Services Association (Sesa) has warned against bringing in the landfill ban on biodegradable municipal waste “too early”. It said the country does not have sufficient non-landfill treatment capabilities available to deal with the extra material when the ban comes into force on 1 January 2021.

Around one million tonnes of residual waste will have to find disposal outside of Scotland, according to Sesa, which it believes will mean disposal in England, which does not have a ban in operation.

  • It was legislated for in the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012 which inserted a provi­sion in the Landfill (Scotland) Regulations 2003 prohibiting the acceptance of BMW at landfills from 1 January 2021. But the Scottish Environ­ment Protection Agency (Sepa) has yet to make the necessary variation to existing landfill licences or permits to imple­ment that legislative provision.
  • Detailed technical guidance about how banned material would be determined was only issued by Sepa in April 2018 and has still to be supple­mented by guidance about the required biodegradability tests. Sepa is setting up a technical group with members from across the industry to devise further guidance on the neces­sary sampling and testing that will be required as a result of the ban.
  • The Scottish Government and Sepa are still gathering evidence on the industry’s readiness for implementation of the ban. Despite some significant investment in new plant by developers, both on a private basis and in partnership with local authorities, there remains an insufficient amount of energy-from-waste (and other) infrastructure within Scotland to deal with the levels of waste expected in 2021.

“Confirmed by the convention of Scottish local authorities, a number of councils have yet to find/ settle on an alternative disposal route for banned material which does not involve landfill.”

  • As confirmed recently by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, a number of coun­cils have yet to find/settle on an alternative disposal route for banned material which does not involve landfill. There continues to be discussion about the feasibility of a collaborative procurement approach.


  • The Scottish Government commissioned independent research to give more clarity to the size of the capacity gap; what the treatment or disposal options are for material that can no longer be landfilled (such as sending the material to England); and the financial impact of those options. Publi­cation of the results is expected imminently.
  • Many landfill operators are considering what changes will be required to their business models and whether remain­ing in operation will be feasi­ble. Early landfill closures could affect other industry sec­tors such as construction and housebuilding, which still pro­duce waste materials that are currently landfilled.

Laura Tainsh is partner at Davidson Chalmers

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.