New dawn for recycling edges closer

Scottish Government and COSLA Zero Waste Taskforce agrees to develop charter for more consistent recycling.

25 Jun 15

A household recycling charter is the key recommendation from the Zero Waste Taskforce, a joint initiative between Scottish Ministers and COSLA, co-chaired by Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead and Councillor Stephen Hagan.

The intention is that the charter would make it easier for people to recycle, with consistent systems and communications. If agreed by council leaders later in the summer, all local authorities will be invited to sign up to the charter, making recycling schemes more consistent across the country. 

The Cabinet Secretary said:

“I want to make it easier for people to recycle.  Presently there is a variety of different systems for collecting paper, glass, plastics, food waste and general waste across Scotland – you can go from one local authority to the bordering local authority and find different systems. While this is often the case for sound local reasons, as people move between different parts of Scotland it can lead to materials becoming contaminated and losing value, fetching lower prices, and simultaneously increasing the costs to councils for sorting and cleaning.

“More consistent systems will allow councils to work together more efficiently, save money and cut down on confusion over what can be recycled where.”

The Zero Waste Taskforce had a series of meeting to consider how to reap the benefits of a more circular economy through the services provided by local government.  Recycling is an important element of a circular economy: where products can’t be reused, it helps to get keeps materials in use and avoids the demand for new resources.

The charter will aim to improve participation and recycling rates, and also to improve the quality of recyclate collected.

Mr Lochhead added:

“Consistent systems will underpin a more circular economy – they will support the public, and local authorities, to keep their valuable materials in circulation, where they can be reused, repaired or remanufactured, and avoid them going to landfill.

“We have the opportunity to move from different recycling systems across 32 local authorities to a more common approach, based on best practice in different geographical areas. I am looking forward to working with COSLA on the next steps to finalise the charter and develop the detailed best practice that underpins these key principles”.  

Cllr Hagan said:

“The 28th of August, when Council Leaders meet to consider this, could be the most significant “bin day” in Scotland for decades.   I’m hoping that Leaders will agree then to this idea originating from Local Government to increase consistency of waste collections and make it easier for people to recycle.  By so doing I believe we will not only drive up recycling rates but also improve public services, deliver value-for-money and promote local economic development and investment. I welcome the Cabinet Secretary’s support for joint leadership on this matter.

“The Circular Economy has the potential to create jobs and economic development opportunities throughout Scotland, through keeping valuable resources in use for as long as possible.  If, by changing our collection systems when they are up for renewal over the next decade we can help to promote and support this approach, then that to me is councils talking and acting with common sense.

“However, even with consistent systems we still need the help and support of the public to ensure that systems are used correctly and to their maximum to get best value for money.  Doing that is in all our interests”. 

The charter will reflect a commitment from local government to adhere to a set of principles on the design, operation and communication of services and policies on issues such as contamination.  All local authorities would be invited to sign up to the charter, following consideration and review by council leaders in August.

The Scottish Government is committed to working with local authorities to secure the economic, social and environmental benefits that a more circular economy can bring to Scottish communities.


The Zero Waste Taskforce met four times between March 2014 and June 2015. The Taskforce was co-chaired by the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment Richard Lochhead MSP, and the COSLA Spokesperson for Development, Economy and Sustainability, Councillor Stephen Hagan.  Membership of the Taskforce was drawn from COSLA, the Scottish Government, Zero Waste Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, SEPA, HIE, SOLACE, and Scotland Excel.

The proposed charter builds on the provisions of the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012 which require local authorities to provide householders with a collection service for dry recyclables and food waste. It also builds on the Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy recommendations. This type of bottom-up local aggregation of services designed with the intention of improving local outcomes while delivering efficiencies and retaining local democratic control, is actually an example of the type of ‘intelligent’ shared services work that the Commission advocated.

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