The perverse way that “waste” is defined by the Scottish Executive is making it hard for sensible reuse and recycling schemes to operate, hindering rural businesses and leading to environmental damage. Some of these perversities were highlighted in Parliament during a debate on waste last week by Eleanor Scott, Green MSP for the Highlands and Islands.
Dr Scott said: “We have rules on waste that make it hard and expensive for businesses to handle materials that are really useful resources. What gets classified as waste is an important issue. For example, topsoil is considered to be waste if it is removed from one site to another, but if it is put through a riddle, which just removes the chuckies, it becomes a product rather than waste. Common sense is sometimes lost in the definitions.
“Earlier this year I visited a quarry operator who extracts virgin rock and crushes it for aggregate. He also crushes demolition waste (bricks, rocks and the like) and sells the resulting product, but he has to have a waste management licence at considerable cost, and he also has to have the crusher specially licensed to crush the waste material and pay for monthly inspections by SEPA. The result is that the recycled aggregate is no less expensive than the virgin aggregate on which aggregate tax is paid. This is perverse and is severely limiting the recycling of aggregates leading to unnecessary quarrying.
“Another example is that of a small garage on Shetland that burns a very small amount of waste oil from cars for heating. However, from the end of the year, it will either have to stop the practice or pay the same licence fee, rumoured to be about £50,000, that a big oil-burning power station would have to pay. The result will be that waste oil will have to be sent off the island, and the firm will have to import virgin oil to burn in order to heat the premises. This militates against a little bit of local, sensible reuse of a product that would otherwise have to be dealt with at some expense and at significant cost to the environment.”
Dr Scott also spoke out in support of community recycling groups, mentioning the Golspie GREAN project and Campbeltown Waste Watchers. She said: “Community groups have a lot of energy, drive and inventiveness, which, unfortunately, they tend to have to use to secure year-on-year funding, because funding is not secure. These groups provide benefits that cannot be measured by the price per tonnage. They provide employment and make useful products, but they require core funding rather than challenge funding that they have to spend a lot of time bidding for each year.”