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Waste (Scotland) Regulations

Scotland’s waste regulations have changed for all organisations, whether private public or voluntary. Since 1 January 2014, the Waste (Scotland) Regulations have been in force.

All organisations operating in Scotland, big and small, should be recycling their plastic, metal, glass, paper and card or risk a fine. Most food businesses will also have to recycle their food waste.

What has changed?

The Waste (Scotland) Regulations require that any and all organisations in Scotland present the following materials for recycling:

  • Glass (including drinks bottles & rinsed empty food jars);
  • Metal (including cans, tins);
  • Plastic (including, drinks bottles & rinsed empty food containers);
  • Paper;
  • Cardboard;
  • Most urban food businesses will need to present food waste separately for collection

Food businesses

Urban food businesses (such as cafés, restaurants or food takeaways) which produce over 5 kg of food waste per week also have to present food waste separately for collection unless excluded by a rural location. 

A food business is defined as “An undertaking, whether for profit or not, and whether public or private, carrying out any activity related to the processing, distribution, preparation or sale of food”. This excludes businesses which only prepare and sell drinks.

When a premises is used to consume food brought from elsewhere e.g. an office where staff bring in food for personal consumption, are not regarded as food businesses. However, a staff canteen where food is prepared, sold and consumed is classed as a food business. The following type of organisations are likely to be affected by the Regulations; hotels, restaurants, cafés, shopping centre food courts, canteens, public houses or shops that serve food, supermarkets, schools and colleges with canteens, prisons, nursing homes and hospitals.

Use the postcode finder tool to see whether your business area is considered to be rural or non-rural.

Key details:

  • Disposing of food waste into public drains or sewers is illegal.
  • Where collections are available, it will be illegal to dispose of food waste into a public drain or sewer
  • Any urban / non-rural business or organisation which produces food waste will have a duty to ensure that it is not deposited directly or indirectly into a public drain or sewer.
  • Food waste disposers such as macerators cannot be used to discharge food waste to a drain or sewer in a non-rural area where a separate food waste collection service is available.
  • Systems which dewater food waste at source and store the solid material for collection and treatment are an acceptable form of management, but only if the loss of solid matter to sewers is minimal. Systems like enzymatic digesters which do not recover any organic waste prior to it going to sewer are banned under the Regulations as the food waste is all going into the sewer.
  • There is no legal requirement for macerators to be removed however your organisation may choose to remove macerators to prevent staff using them and avoid the risk of a fine. Businesses are also liable to prosecution under Section 46 of the Sewerage (Scotland) Act 1968 which makes it an offence to discharge any substance into the public sewer likely to obstruct its free flow. Disposing of food waste to the drain could also result in flooding within your (and surrounding) business premises.
  • There is evidence to suggest that fat, oils and grease cause the majority of drain blockages and further legislation is underway to deal with this specific problem.

For answers to frequently asked questions, please refer to our Waste Regulation FAQs.

How to be compliant in 5 steps

Speak with your local authority or waste contractor

They should be able to offer advice and a service that enables you to comply with your Duty of Care. Putting all your waste in a single bin is not compliant if any recyclables are present - any contractor that offers such a service should be reported to SEPA.

Train your staff and add label bins

Label bins stating clearly what should be recycled and ensure staff know what goes where. Use the free online poster creator tool  to help staff to recycle effectively.

Think before you throw

Do not contaminate recyclables or food waste.

Your waste contractor may refuse to uplift recyclables or food waste (or charge extra) if they are contaminated by other materials.

Use clear bags to collect recyclables, black bin bags should only be used for general waste.

If you are a food business, you will probably need to present food waste for collection

Use the rural postcode finder tool which will help you check if your organisation’s location is urban or rural. If rural you may be exempt from the requirement to segregate food waste.

Try to reduce waste

Look at what you are paying to have waste collected and think about how to reduce the amount of waste you produce. Preventing waste from occurring is always preferable to managing it. 

Why be compliant?

It’s better for your business, the environment and the economy

Increasing recycling rates has the potential to bring about significant benefits to Scotland’s economy and environment. For example; supporting and expanding Scotland’s recycling industry will help reduce our demand for expensive virgin materials while also creating new opportunities for economic growth and jobs in the recycling sector. By reducing our reliance on landfill by increasing recycling will substantially reduce landfill emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas 24 times more potent than carbon dioxide. And by processing food waste at anaerobic digestion facilitates we are able to harness green energy and produce high quality fertilisers. 

For food businesses the recipe for success resides in purchasing and production efficiencies that mitigate waste as there is a direct correlation between waste and the profitability. Recycling food waste is good, but preventing food waste is even better. Food waste harms the environment by wasting the energy, fuel and water that went into producing it. When disposed of to landfill it produces methane, a damaging greenhouse gas. Composting or recovery of biodegradable waste (such as food or garden waste) could help you save money on your waste disposal costs and reduce environmental impact as food is heavy and you pay per uplift. Composting can be considered as recycling if it meets the standard of a quality protocol (such as PAS 100).

Organisational Duty of Care 

Every organisation and business has a Duty of Care (a legal responsibility) for waste they generate.

This means, you must:

  • Store your waste securely so it does not cause litter or attract vermin;
  • Ensure your waste is transferred to an authorised collector such as your local authority or a reputable waste contractor;
  • Complete a waste transfer note for any transfer of waste and retain a copy of this note for two years;
  • If carrying your own waste to recycling facilities you should be appropriately registered with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). This registration is free and the simple application form is available on the SEPA website.

Duty of Care expands to include the Waste (Scotland) Regulations and non-compliance could risk a potential fine of up to £10,000, with SEPA able to issue fixed penalty notices.

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