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Scottish landfill ban is £100m English ‘tax gift’

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.

The association is urging the Scottish Government to review the waste procurement framework and accelerate investment in waste infrastructure.

Michael Tracey, SESA chair, said: “We need common sense to prevail here. Bringing in this ban without giving enough time to build the right infrastructure to deal with the waste that will be banned from landfill and effectively ’homeless’ will be a costly mistake for Scotland.”

Landfill tax in England is £88.95 per tonne but there are plans to raise this to more than £94 per tonne by April 2020.

Stephen Freeland, SESA policy adviser, added: “Restricting or banning certain materials can act as a great incentive to recover value from the waste we all produce, but it needs to be properly planned for.

“Bringing this ban in too early before the infrastructure is built in Scotland to deal properly with the waste will simply mean it will follow the line of least resistance.

“This means either crossing the border into England to be landfilled, meaning higher haulage costs to local authorities and businesses and a hefty landfill tax bill, or, worse, it will end up in the hands of waste criminals who cause misery for people, damage to the environment and have a significant impact on UK finances.

“Either way, that won’t be good for the environment or Scotland’s economy. We will be seeking an early meeting with Scottish Government to help come up with a plan of action that will help resolve this situation.”

Readers' comments (5)

  • Just for balance - I don't disagree with a lot of this - but the ban was announced in May 2012 - almost 7 years ago.... If the infrastructure isn't in place (which it isn't) we "the industry" might want to check what it is we've been doing for the last 7 years.....

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  • But there is still time to design and construct sufficient waste treatment infrastructure to meet the decisions in Scotland for both the Organic Wastes (by converting this to Renewable Transport Fuels) and Waste Plastics (by reducing these to Hydrogen fuel) using Reuse Technology Treatment processes. The run up times for design and construct projects at 15 months is well within the timescale needed.

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  • It is true that the ban was included in legislation in 2012 but no detailed discussion about how it would be implemented or what exactly it would cover was started until the beginning of last year. There wasn't enough certainty for industry to spend large amounts of money investing in new infrastructure in preparation for a ban that they knew little about.

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  • Hi Laura - I would tentatively disagree on the basis that this doesn't explain Dunbar which was developed pre-Clyde Valley contract, Levenseat, the EGEC plant which started its development 4 years ago amongst others that will close this year.... getting the infrastructure developed, financed and built was demonstrably possible, and possible at a time when there was subsidy available to support revenues. The stasis between getting planning and moving any further forward was caused by an anticipation of Local Authority contracts that didn't come - but if you look at something like EGEC or Levenseat in Scotland, and Kemsley and the like in England, you don't need to be underpinned by LA contracts to get to financial close. In our view the industry in Scotland has generally been too dependent on Local Authority contracting to build business than working within its specialties and segments - it's weakened the industry and removed the leadership, aggression and confidence that was so vital in building the industry up in the first place. That's why every chance I get I will pay tribute to Levenseat, Viridor, Brockwell etc for having the "cohones" to follow through and deliver.

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  • Simon - I don't disagree with your point. By 'industry' I was including everyone (both public and private sector).. whatever the reasons, the lack of engagement with the ban, across the board, until fairly recently has led to the problem we now face. I too commend those who were prepared to take a risk and go for it in investing in necessary new infrastructure.

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