This week, APRS gave evidence to the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee on the Scottish Circular Economy Bill along with Friends of the Earth Scotland, Scottish Environment Link, and Circular Communities Scotland. We believe that the bill, as it stands, needs considerable improvement if it is to drive Scotland’s transition towards a circular economy. Waste should be seen as a systemic issue, and we need greater provisions for producer responsibility rather than the blame lying solely on individuals. Here are some of the key points we made:
Waste is a systemic issue – we need producer responsibility
Our current linear economic system shifts the responsibility for dealing with waste onto the taxpayer, local authorities, and the environment, rather than the onus being placed on those creating it. Essentially, this socialises the cost of waste while privatising the profits.
The concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) ensures that this responsibility is held by those producing what becomes waste. As soon as the costs for dealing with waste can no longer be externalised onto the public and the environment, we start working towards a truly circular economy. Responsibility for their products throughout their entire life cycle would give producers an incentive to make their products more environmentally friendly and circular. Despite the importance of EPR, it is not mentioned at all in the Bill as is currently proposed. An increased focus on producer responsibility is one of the core changes we would like to see.
We need to go further than recycling alone
EPR policies and methods could be used by Scottish Ministers to introduce refill and reuse targets or obligations on producers. Recycling does not reduce waste at its source, and energy and material savings from reuse and refill schemes are far higher. We need measures that go further than recycling if we are to move towards a circular economy. In the final bill, we would like to see binding and enforceable targets for refill and reuse, based on the principle of producer responsibility.
Another concept that can facilitate producer responsibility is the introduction of takeback requirements for certain products, such as takeaway food containers, vapes, delivery packaging, mattresses, furniture, and toys. This can encourage producers to design their products more sustainably so that they can be taken back, repaired, and reused.
We need a strong definition and purpose included in the bill
Currently, the Bill has no clearly defined purpose or definition of the term ‘circular economy’. This would ensure that the terms ‘circular economy’ and ‘circularity’ do not just become buzzwords with little meaning, and instead act to strengthen the bill, and that the aims of the bill are clearly set out. This purpose should also make clear the principle of producer responsibility, that producers of products must be responsible for their whole life cycle.
A strong circular economy bill should be based on the waste hierarchy. This ranks waste and resource management options according to what is best for the environment, with disposal at the bottom of the hierarchy and prevention at the very top. Currently, there is no mention at all of the waste hierarchy in the bill! This is one of the core elements that we believe should be set out in the definition of a circular economy.
Source: Scottish Environmental Link
The Scottish Government must set targets for its own circularity
We would also like to see the Scottish Government lead by example by setting and working towards circularity targets for their own buildings and premises. This policy has previously been supported by the Scottish Government and should be included in the Bill.
We can’t let the Internal Market Act have a chilling effect on circular economy policy
The deposit return scheme showed the impacts that the Internal Market Act (IMA) can have on environmental policy in Scotland. The IMA is a post-Brexit piece of legislation designed to regulate markets within the UK nations. Under the Act devolved nations have less autonomy when legislating what can be sold and what conditions can be placed on the sale of products.
Several policies currently in the bill, in particular the introduction of charges for single-use items, will fall under the scope of the IMA. However, at APRS we believe that we cannot allow the IMA to have a chilling factor on Scottish environmental policy and prevent us from making positive changes. In the evidence session, we encouraged the Scottish Government to make good legislation and seek an exemption to allow us to enforce it.
We are also supporting other policies put forward by other environmental organisations, such as Friends of the Earth Scotland’s ask for consumption-based targets. Now the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee will hear more evidence from stakeholders, then consider the evidence they heard and any changes that need to be made to the bill. The final bill will likely be introduced early next year.
The full session can be watched here.
Further written evidence to the committee
Letter to the NETZET Committee on Circular Economy Bill
This letter was written after giving oral evidence to the NETZET Committee during their scrutiny of the Circular Economy Bill in Stage 1. They requested further information from us and this letter contains our response.