The relevant amendment to the Waste Management Licensing (Scotland) Regulations was made in 2013 and a group was established in autumn 2016 to plan the transition towards a position where the ban could be enforced. The group had membership from NFU Scotland, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Zero Waste Scotland, the Scottish Government and several waste plastics collectors and reprocessors. The transition to full enforcement has therefore been carefully considered.
In most areas of the country there are recycling collection services available and I am advised that, since the announcement, the network has expanded. That is one of the reasons why a transition period until 1 January 2019 is in place.
SEPA has published clear guidance for farmers to help them decide how best to dispose of plastic waste, and there are also local SEPA offices across Scotland that can provide more direct assistance.
I have been contacted by crofters in rural Scotland and in island communities, who say that there are no recycling facilities local to them. There is a concern that the only option that they have is to bury the plastics, which will have a knock-on effect on the environment and on animal health, should they become unburied. Will the cabinet secretary consider working with local authorities, to see whether they could recycle farm plastics along with the normal household recycling?
We would want to have conversations where necessary. A list of plastic waste service providers is available on the Zero Waste Scotland website; perhaps access to that would be helpful in those circumstances. If all other options have been exhausted, and we would need to make sure that that was the case, and there is really no recycling service available, the waste can be sent to landfill at a licensed site or to an energy-from-waste plant. However, that should be considered only as a last resort. We would want to have a serious conversation first, to ensure that there is not, in fact, an alternative solution.
Following on from Rhoda Grant’s concerns, which are clearly concerns that have been expressed by constituents in Orkney, will the cabinet secretary undertake to ask SEPA to complete an island impact assessment, so that we can explore the options, which, at the moment, either involve landfill or potentially one or two ferry journeys to get plastic away?
I am conscious that, particularly on islands, there are transport issues. I am happy to discuss with SEPA whether the member’s request is appropriate and I am happy to speak to the member about the particular circumstances that he has raised. Part of my reply to Rhoda Grant’s question may also apply to the member’s constituency.
I declare an interest as a farmer. The Government agreed to hold a number of stakeholder events, supported by an engagement programme, in order to support farmers’ transition to the requirements of the ban. How many events have been held?
I do not have a note of the precise number of events, but I do know that there has been a clear amount of discussion. The group whose membership I read out has been involved in that, and it includes the NFUS. I undertake to get the numbers and the locations of any such meetings for the member, and any other member who wishes to know can contact me to see whether a meeting has been held locally.
We have already prioritised action on plastics and we will continue to do so. I think that most members will know about the work that has already been done in respect of some of the single-use plastics and the work that is planned.
We support EU plans to tackle single-use plastics and to ensure that all plastic packaging is easily recycled or reusable by 2030. We are a founder member of the plastics pact. Our commitment to a deposit return scheme signals a step change in our ambitions and I can confirm, as I indicated earlier, that there is a transition period until 1 January 2019 to allow farmers time to prepare for the ban. I invite members who know of local farmers, crofters or anybody else with specific concerns to flag up those concerns to me, and we will see what we can do.