Circular Economy Bill has Passed

Last week the Circular Economy Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament, here Kat reflects on the campaign, and discusses what differences APRS, and the wider community, made to the final legislation.

After nearly a year of campaigning on a Circular Economy Bill, (we dived straight into it after the after the Deposit Return scheme was cancelled) we are pleased to say that the Bill was passed in the Scottish Parliament last week.

There was certainly disappointment that we didn’t get many of the improvements that we were campaigning for, but across the coordinated NGO campaign, we did manage to make the Bill a bit stronger.

We are grateful to APRS supporters and members who emailed their MSPs about the amendments put forward by APRS. 27 supporters emailed their MSPs, resulting in 29 MSPs being contacted, including the Minister responsible for the Bill. This was very much a last minute attempt as the final amendments list was published so close to the debate itself. It has been interesting to see some of the responses from MSPs that members have sent in to us – there is a lot of support for these measures from MSPs but unfortunately, it didn’t translate into support for improvements we’d proposed to the Bill.

Our Asks

The main area we wanted to see change was in producer responsibility – ie giving the manufacturers of products the responsibility to deal with the waste that they are producing. But instead the Bill put the onus, more firmly, on the individual for waste and litter, rather than on the producers who have the power to change the system. It introduced the possibility for local authorities to fine households who do not recycle correctly. We opposed this measure, arguing that it was regressive and the systems themselves will only change when producers pay the full cost of the products they make, incentivising manufacturers to make goods that last, can be mended, and that are easily refurnished or recycled.

Our experience over nearly 100 years of campaigning on litter is that measures that put all the responsibility for waste on the consumer, and the costs for recycling and waste onto the local authority, do not work. Producers get away with creating products that have a planned obsolescence, are difficult to mend or refurbish, or are almost impossible to recycle.

Back in the Autumn we wrote a blog on the areas we were calling for improvements on since the start of the Bill’s progress. Of these we managed to get a definition of the Waste Hierarchy into the bill. Takeback and refillables must now be considered in the preparation of the Circular Economy, however this is a far less ambitious than our asks were in this area.

The Coalition of NGOs

It is thanks to the tireless campaigning of the environment NGOs, namely Phoebe Cochrane, Scottish Environment LINK’s Sustainable Economy Campaigner, and Kim Pratt, Friends of the Earth Scotland’s (FoES) Circular Economy Campaigner, along with organisations such as MCS, Fidra and Circular Communities Scotland, that we had a Bill at all. We stepped up to play a bigger part in the campaign when the Bill had reached the consultation stage.

The Circular Economy (Scotland) Act was always going to be an ‘Enabling Bill’ – providing the legislative structure for further policy – and so, it is hard to draw out the concrete differences it will make until we see the shape of the Circular Economy Strategy, and further pieces of legislation that will come. This means that the NGOs will need to stay on the ball with the next stages, particularly the Strategy, which we believe will be published later in July.

A summary of the wins and losses

Here Kim of Friends of the Earth Scotland summarises some of the wins and some of the misses of the coordinated campaign across the NGOs. 

Progress made in the last debate of the Bill

  • The strategy must consider whole life cycle carbon impacts, and this was added to the target list too
  • Waste should be managed in Scotland, if appropriate
  • Global South included in consultation for strategy and targets
  • The strategy must consider international impacts
  • Education and skills, refill and take back must be considered in the strategy
  • The strategy must consider “reduction of inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage”
  • The strategy must consider those sectors and systems which align with net zero targets, consumption reduction and wider environmental impacts

This is on top of the improvements we already saw at stage 2, including:

  • Targets are mandatory, not optional
  • Basic Just transition principles added
  • Waste hierarchy added 
  • Reuse included in targets list

What’s still missing

  • The Scottish Government rejected amendments based on making its own recycling targets statutory.  
  • Whilst there was a strong commitment from SG to include plans for transition minerals in the energy strategy, this was not included in the bill. The Strategy is expected to be published shortly after the general election.
  • Additional just transition measures, real nappy schemes, scope 3 accounting for big businesses and due diligence for public bodies did not get through
  • No mention of specific sectors, materials or pollutants – SG claimed this was because it didn’t want to be over prescriptive in a framework bill. This will now have to be drawn out in the strategy.
  • There is no purpose clause or definition of CE and no clear measures around supporting councils to develop access to reuse and repair for everyone in Scotland.

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