ENVIRONMENT: SNP eco credentials left shattered as recycling rates plummet

Scottish Labour attacked the SNP/Scottish Greens government for their environmental failures after it was revealed that recycling rates had been dropping over the last five years and they would be missing their target by a substantial amount.

The SNP/Greens Government is under fire over recycling rates.

By Lucy Ashton

The SNP/Greens government has faced another humiliating environmental failure after it was revealed recycling rates have actually plummeted over the last five years.

Despite the vows from the nationalists that they were presiding over a new green future for the country, this rhetoric does not match the actual truth.

Statistics revealed by Scottish Labour found that recycling rates remain lower than 2014. In 2021, just 42.7 per cent of household waste was recycled, a lower rate than at any point between 2014 to 2019.

The amount of rubbish being recycled peaked in 2016 at 1,124,922 tonnes (45 per cent) and since then it has plummeted by almost 64,000 tonnes.

Last year, 1,061,042 tonnes of household waste was recycled which was 42.7 per cent of the total. While this is up on 2020, it is still lower than all of the six years before that.

Empty bottles of wine in a box for recycling, generic image.
Empty wine and beer bottles in a recycling box. 

The Scottish Government set a target of 60 per cent of rubbish to be recycled by 2020 but they missed this by a huge amount, and even falling short of their 2013 aim of 50 per cent.

It is not the first time in the last month that the SNP/Greens have been embarrassed by their lack of environmental progress. The Climate Change Committee warned that their statutory climate targets were at risk of becoming “meaningless” after they missed seven out of 11 legally-binding targets.

Scottish Labour’s net zero spokesman Colin Smyth highlighted the figures and pointed out that the current government is failing on a number of green fronts.

He said: “These dismal figures lay bare the reality behind the SNP-Green government’s hollow environmental rhetoric. They claim to recognise the scale of the climate emergency, but missed targets and broken promises pile up around us.

“This humiliating failure joins the long list of pledges this government has abandoned over the years, on everything from green jobs to emissions to active travel.

Colin Smyth Labour MSP
Colin Smyth Labour MSP

“The SNP-Green government’s usual mismanagement and spin won’t cut it – we need bold action to build a greener, fairer Scotland.”

When the Bute House Agreement was signed last year, the Scottish Greens claimed that this would lead to the government becoming “greener and fairer.”

But the recycling failure joins a number of other environmental mishaps that has befallen the SNP/Greens coalition, including their diesel bus promise being on-track for failing and their lack of electric charging points for drivers.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are taking dedicated action to increase recycling rates and reduce waste in our economy. Our £70 million Recycling Improvement Fund is delivering one of the biggest investments in recycling in Scotland in a generation, which will make it easier for households to recycle and increase local recycling rates.

“In August, we are introducing the UK’s first deposit return scheme for drinks containers, which will recycle billions of bottles and cans every single year. Our forthcoming Circular Economy Bill will establish the legislative framework to support Scotland’s transition to a zero waste and circular economy.

“Together, these actions will boost recycling and make an important contribution to the fight against the climate crisis.”

Pictures: The Dumbarton recycling depot at Dalmoak on the Renton Road.

One comment

  1. The recycling rates are actually much worse than reported.

    In WDC we have one of the lowest rates of recycling in Scotland. But consider WDC’s Auchecarroch landfill site. Between Auchencarroch and another site in Ayrshire, Barr Environmental Ltd have been served with a £99,000,0000 bill from Revenue Scotland for avoided landfill levy.

    And how did this happen. Well if you read the August 2022 Upper Tribunal Scotland decision by Lord Ericht you’ll see that the Revenue are charging landfill levy on landfill waste that was classified as non waste and used to fill the areas between the line and capped landfill pits and under site roads.

    With landfill tax rates at around £96.00 per tonne it is not difficult to see how this has arisen. Quite what you can do to change grey bin waste is a good question and Revenue Scotland obviously thought so too. A £99m back claim from Revenue Scotland divided by the landfill rate levy suggests a very big number in relation to landfill waste reclassified an non landfill waste.

    Anyway aside of the pecuniary loss of levy to the Revenue Scotland, and the attendant loss of funding grant to environmental good causes, there is the further issue of any environmental impacts . The legacy of tipping and the disastrous environmental and health impacts is well known in Scotland. Indeed, that is why landfill waste is placed in hermetically lined and capped pits so that the waste is encapsulated and so that anaerobically produced methane can be captured.

    And on this aspect one has to ask is the reclassified waste used outside the landfill pits environmentally safe. Could this material leach toxins.

    Moreover, in the light of the recent huge collapse of a side of the landfill tip where thousands of tonnes of hillside has collapsed exposing the underlying tip, what if anything is being done to rectify this. And is the exposed tip leaching toxins and poisons into the soil, the water courses and the environment generally in what is the National Park. And will it happen again. And why did it happen in the first place.

    Big questions that no one is answering.

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