The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) has defended its enforcement of a requirement for businesses to arrange separate collections of their food waste, following criticism from industry.
200 MRW exclusive
Since January last year, any Scottish business producing more than 5kg of food waste a week has been required to collect the material separately under the Waste (Scotland) Regulations.
Earlier this month at an Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee meeting, the Environmental Services Association (ESA) executive director Jacob Hayler said there were mixed views from the organisation’s members about whether the scheme could be rolled out across the UK.
He added: “There are also a lot of concerns about enforcement and how the separate requirement was being enforced, if at all.”
Now Sepa has defended its enforcement activities, saying that around two-thirds of businesses are already fully compliant, with about 80% “making some efforts” to separate the material, according to sampling at 6,752 premises across Scotland.
Writing for MRW, director of regulatory services Calum MacDonald said: “Given the amount of work Sepa has done in partnership with the Scottish Environmental Services Association and their members, it is disappointing that Hayler has concerns about how this requirement is being enforced, if at all.
“There are obviously challenges still to be overcome. We estimate that around 20% of businesses are not making any effort to comply.
“This is where Sepa is targeting its enforcement effort, including use of our new powers to issue a £300 fixed monetary penalty where advice and engagement fail to change behaviour.”
MacDonald (pictured below) said the regulator had undertaken 44 inspections of persistently non-compliant businesses since last September, with three-quarters of these now demonstrating compliance since being threatened with a fine.
He said Sepa was adapting its inspection practices to target smaller businesses that tend not to open until the early evening.
“We are also spending significant time and effort on each inspection, to the extent of opening black bin bags from external general waste containers in order to gather sufficient evidence for enforcement action.”
In response, Hayler said: ”Our members are concerned that participation has been low and contamination high.
“We would like to see stronger enforcement to drive better environmental outcomes, and we are pleased that Sepa is going to introduce new measures. We look forward to working with them to improve participation in Scotland.”