Waste Management (Island Communities)

Question Time — Scottish Executive — Environment and Rural Development – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:16 pm on 22nd February 2007.

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Photo of Eleanor Scott Eleanor Scott Green 2:16 pm, 22nd February 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive how it is promoting the application of the proximity principle for waste management in island communities. (S2O-12121)

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

The national waste plan makes it clear that area waste plans should, as far as possible, take account of the proximity principle. In addition, we have made funding available through the strategic waste fund for a range of local projects in island communities. They include an anaerobic digestion plant in the Western Isles; recycling facilities on islands; work by Remade Scotland to develop markets for recycled products in rural areas, including islands; the Waste and Resources Action Programme's home composting programme, which covers several islands and will be extended throughout Scotland later this year; and work by the community recycling sector.

Photo of Eleanor Scott Eleanor Scott Green

I thank the minister for that list of positives. However, there is one area in which the proximity principle cannot be applied—waste oil. Prior to implementation of the European directive on the incineration of waste, garage premises could be heated using recovered oil in small oil burners. I know of a case in Shetland where that has been forbidden by the implementation of the directive. The oil must now be transported off Shetland to be reprocessed elsewhere, and new oil to heat the garage must be imported to Shetland. That makes a nonsense of the proximity principle and of any pretence that the directive is an environmental measure. The same directive is interpreted differently in England and Wales, where small waste oil burners do not come within its scope. That is an injustice. What will the minister do to rectify it?

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

I am intrigued that the Green Party should advocate the burning of waste oil; that is an interesting and, perhaps, new policy position for it to adopt. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency has examined the directive in question and is deeply concerned about both the by-products and the process of waste oil burning. The process cannot be dealt with on its own. This is not "an injustice", as the member put it, but a serious environmental issue. The oil should be reused for a purpose, or otherwise treated, in a way that does not give rise to the same level of emissions. We should not condemn a directive that is intended to improve the quality of the environment.

Photo of Maureen Macmillan Maureen Macmillan Labour

The minister will be aware that in Shetland waste is turned into energy in a combustion plant. Does he have a view on whether that would be appropriate for other islands?

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

Maureen Macmillan makes a good point. I am concerned that all local authorities and island communities stick to these fundamental principles: we aim to reduce the amount of waste that we generate; we aim to reuse the maximum possible amount; and we aim to recycle. The question of what we should do with residual waste arises only after we have met those primary principles. I am happy that there are in the islands projects to extract energy from waste, such as the one in Shetland to which the member referred, and the anaerobic digester in the Western Isles. Those are perfectly legitimate and they play their part, provided that the three principles that I outlined are met.