A flagship ban on sending waste to landfill sites in Scotland by 2021 looks unlikely to be met, according to new research.
And it could hit Scotland’s economy to the tune of £1 billion over a ten-year spell to meet the additional costs of exporting waste to England and increasing recycling capabilities.
Just 14 councils have solutions in place to meet the ban, while three had a long-term plan, but no interim solution, according to the Scottish Government Waste Markets Study.
Nine had no alternative arrangements at all despite the “significant notice” given of the planned ban announced in 2012.
If recycling targets are met, the shortfall of treatment capacity in Scotland compared to waste produced is predicted to be just over one million tonnes a year, falling to 90,000 tonnes by 2035.
The report states: “Excluding consideration of waste minimisation and recycling, the ban will result in significant economic costs to Scotland due to the need to export an increased amount of residual waste, whether as an interim solution until new thermal treatment capacity comes online or as a long-term solution. This has the effect of exporting revenue to English or continental landfill or treatment providers.”
Researchers modelled the likely costs, which ranged from £414 million to £1.156bn.
Opposition politicians criticised the Scottish Government’s handling of the ban.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “It would make a mockery of the law if the SNP’s solution to meeting their own landfill ban is to ship it to England or abroad.
“Ministers are relying on a loophole so big you could drive a rubbish truck through it.”
Scottish Conservative environment spokesman Maurice Golden said the target was an “SNP gimmick”.
He said: “The Nationalists made a daft prediction without either the ability or willingness to achieve it.
“This damning report shows that their target is wildly off-schedule.
“And what’s even more worrying is the cost to Scotland’s economy of this catastrophic misjudgment could be more than £1bn.”
Scottish Labour’s environment spokeswoman Claudia Beamish said: “The government’s own research shows it is set to miss its target to eliminate biodegradable waste going to landfill from our councils.
“It is simply not enough for ministers in St Andrew’s House to set targets. They need to help councils make this change a reality by giving them the appropriate resources.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said ministers were still committed to the target.
“Our focus now is on working with authorities who do not yet have a solution in place to identify ways, such as collaborative procurement and improved recycling, in which they can comply with the ban,” the spokesman said.