Landfill is an important part of Scotland’s waste management infrastructure, currently providing a disposal solution for around 4 million tonnes of waste each year. However, it has one of the poorer compliance records of the sectors that we regulate. The Landfill sector plan focuses on how SEPA will work with the sector to solve these compliance issues and support innovation to go beyond compliance.
SEPA is committed to supporting regulated businesses during COVID-19 and following EU Exit. Whilst SEPA remains impacted by a complex and sophisticated cyber-attack the organisation continues to maintain protections for Scotland’s environment, communities and our people.
We recognise that the ability of operators to run their operations may be compromised.
We are clear we expect everyone we regulate to take all reasonable steps to remain in compliance with Scotland’s environmental laws. We expect operators to be actively preparing for the impacts of COVID-19, and ensuring that the impacts on the environment are minimised. We recognise, however, that in some cases operators may be unable to comply for reasons beyond their control.
Our regulatory response to COVID-19 public health emergency, the cyber-attack and EU exit can be found on our regulatory approach hub.
The landfill sector is facing significant business challenges, predominantly reducing waste inputs driven by increasing waste reuse and recycling and the 2021 biodegradable municipal waste ban. The sector has a poor compliance record resulting from some legacy issues, the difficulties in solving some chronic problems such as odour, some historic poor practices and the level of priority given to environmental compliance by the operators. Solving these compliance issues is the primary focus of this sector plan. At the same time, we will also be working to spark innovation on issues such as the capture of landfill gas.
Legislation requires that landfill waste management activities are conducted in accordance with the EU Waste Framework Directive, the Landfill Directive and the waste hierarchy. Together these prevent, or reduce the potential impact of, pollution of the environment or harm to human health and encourage sustainable use of resources.
Since 2003, operational landfills have been regulated by SEPA through a permit issued under the Pollution Prevention and Control regime (PPC), taking account of the standards expressed in the EC Landfill Directive and Landfill (Scotland) Regulations 2003 (as amended).
Landfill operators are also required to comply with other legal obligations enforced directly by SEPA, such as Duty of Care. SEPA staff can also assess compliance with partner agencies’ legislation, such as Scottish Landfill Tax and the Landfill Tax Communities Fund. We work jointly with partner law enforcement agencies where there are shared interests.
In 2015, the First Minister pledged that Scotland would lead the way to deliver a more equal, more just world, by signing Scotland up to the United Nation (UN) Sustainable Development Goals. These global goals give us the framework to achieve real change, from eradicating poverty to ensuring a good home for us all. This vision is underpinned by SEPA’s own regulatory strategy, One Planet Prosperity, which aims to deliver environmental protection and improvement in ways which help communities and businesses thrive within the resources of our planet.
Scotland’s businesses have a critical role to play in leading Scotland’s contribution to achieving SDGs. Through our sector plans, we have identified opportunities that will work towards achieving the goals and help realise the economic benefit of increased resource efficiency, innovation and resilience.
The actions set out in the Landfill sector plan contribute towards UN Sustainable Development Goals 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17.