Skip to main content

Recycling (including food waste)

Recycling materials has the potential to bring significant economic and environmental benefits to Scotland.

The Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012 require that all waste producers (excluding householders) take reasonable steps to present key dry recyclables such as glass, metals, plastics, paper and card (including cardboard) for separate collection.

The regulations also require some food businesses to segregate food waste for separate collection.

How is material segregation regulated?

The Regulations expand the Duty of Care for waste to ensure that waste producers take all reasonable steps to ensure the separate collection of dry recyclable waste and food waste (where applicable). The Scottish Government’s Duty of Care: a Code of Practice provides additional guidance on these requirements.

Along with local authorities, we are responsible for enforcing Scottish recycling duties. Persistent non-compliance will be addressed through duty of care enforcement procedures and any person who fails without reasonable excuse to comply with the duties imposed above may be liable to:

  • on summary conviction, to a fine of up to £10,000
  • on conviction on indictment, to an unlimited fine

Co-mingling of dry recyclables is acceptable, provided it does not result in significantly lower quality material than would be achieved from a fully separate collection. Fully co-mingled collection systems which include both paper and glass together should be avoided.

Businesses should seek advice from their waste contractor on how they should present dry recyclables for collection. Contractors should conduct spot checks for contamination and feedback, as appropriate,

It is recommended that only clear bags are used for the sack collection of recyclable materials in order to facilitate a visual quality check. Black and opaque bin bags should be avoided for this purpose.

Do the regulations affect me?

The duty to segregate the key dry recyclables for collection applies to all waste producers (excluding householders), while only food businesses are affected by the regulations to separate food waste.

A food business is defined as ‘an undertaking, whether for profit or not and whether public or private, carrying out any activity related to the processing, distribution, preparation or sale of food’.

Examples of food businesses include:

  • restaurants
  • cafes
  • hotels
  • schools and colleges
  • nursing homes
  • public houses that sell food

Material recovery facility requirements

Material recovery facilities (MRF) are required to comply with the Materials Recovery Code. The code sets out sampling and reporting requirements that apply to anyone holding a Waste Management Licence or Pollution Prevention Control (PPC) permit for an MRF that receives, or is likely to receive, more than 1,000 tonnes of mixed or separately collected dry recyclable waste in any reporting year. Accordingly, MRF licence or permit holders must ensure they comply with the requirements of the code, otherwise they may be deemed to be non-compliant with their licence or permit conditions.

SEPA has developed a flowchart to assist in determining whether or not operators are required to sample and report under the Code.

The specific sampling and reporting requirements are set out in the Materials Recovery Code and further guidance is available in the Testing and Reporting Guidance for Materials Recovery Facilities. Operators must report to SEPA using the MRF Return Form, using the Material Recovery Facilities Recording and Reporting Operator Guidance.

SEPA has also published a list of frequently asked questions which cover other common queries.

What do I have to do?

All businesses must segregate their recyclable waste from general waste and present it for separate collection.

Food businesses consistently producing 5 kg or more food waste a week must also segregate this from general waste and present it for separate collection, with some exceptions.

Zero Waste Scotland has a wide range of support packages available to help businesses, local authorities and the waste management sector make the necessary changes, as well as producing a database of frequently asked questions.

Through our advice, planning and regulatory roles, we will support the development of collection and treatment infrastructure and ensure a high degree of environmental protection.

Exemptions (food waste only)

1. Some elements of food waste are currently exempt from regulation:

  • Rural food business premises

Rural food businesses are exempt form the requirement to present food waste separately.

Rural is defined using the six-fold classification system used by the Scottish Government. It has produced a document entitled Defining rural and non-rural areas to support zero waste policies, which contains all the rural postcodes which benefit from the exemption.

Alternatively, Zero Waste Scotland’s FAQ database features a postcode search

  • Food businesses producing less than 5 kg per week

There is also a threshold for food businesses that produce only a very small quantity of food waste. If you consistently produce less than 5 kg a week (roughly equivalent to a full domestic kitchen caddy), then the duty to present that food waste for separate collection does not apply.

2. Sites which operate materials recovery facilities under exemptions from the Waste Management Licensing Regulations are not required to comply with the Materials Recovery Code.

Contact us

If you require any further help or advice, please contact us.