Council to consider sustainable Waste Strategy for Highland

HIGHLAND needs a waste management solution that is Sustainable, Affordable, Friendly to the environment and Efficient (SAFE).

Thousands of tonnes of waste are produced in Highland every year, a large proportion of which currently ends up in landfill. The vast majority of waste is from households.

The Council handles some 140,000 tonnes or waste per annum, and around 57,000 tonnes of this material is currently re-used, recycled or recovered from kerbside collections from households and businesses, as well as from Recycling Centres and Points. 

However, around 83,000 tonnes of biodegradable municipal waste is sent to landfill at a cost of approximately £11 million a year.

“This is simply not sustainable,” says Councillor Allan Henderson who chairs the Council’s Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee.  “It is not sustainable for all kinds of reasons. Long gone are the days it was ok to just bury our waste out of sight and allow future generations to deal with the consequences.

“As a society, we consume too much, we waste too much and our environment is suffering as a consequence.  We need to find better, safer, more efficient, and innovative ways of dealing with the vast quantities of waste we produce.

“Another major reason for us to closely consider our future waste strategy, is that from 1 January 2021, it will simply no longer be possible to landfill biodegradable municipal waste due to changes in legislation. The aims of this ban are to promote waste being regarded as a commodity or resource, maximise reuse and recycling, and stimulate a circular economy. The ban will also reduce the amount of methane being produced by landfill sites. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 30 times more powerful than CO2. Failure to address the ban on landfilling waste is a significant risk for the Council. Urgent action is now required, and doing nothing is not an option.”

Councillor Jimmy Gray, the Administration’s Environmental Spokesperson, added: “Our strategy needs to go beyond finding a clean and efficient way of re-using our waste. We also need to promote a massive culture change – to change people’s behaviour and attitudes to waste and litter. We need the support of everyone, as individuals, families, businesses and communities, to ensure that we in the Highlands set an example for the rest of Scotland to follow.

“People from all over the world come to the Highlands for beautiful landscape, for our wonderful, rivers, lochs and seascapes.  Let’s prove to all our visitors we truly value our inheritance by making this the cleanest place they have ever visited.”

On Thursday 17 May 2018, the Council’s Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee will be asked to consider recommendations in a report.


Big changes to the way that all Councils in Scotland manage their waste were introduced by the Scottish Government in 2012. The Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012 and Making Things Last (A circular economy strategy for Scotland) set out the context for future waste management in Scotland. 

The Highland Council’s proposed Residual Waste Strategy focuses on the ban of biodegradable municipal waste from landfill from January 2021. A Final Outline Business Case was completed in Jan 2018 with proposals to allow the Council to meet its statutory obligations with regard to managing its waste. The options are as follows:

  1. Bulking up our waste at a central facility in the Inner Moray Firth for onward transport to waste facilities for processing in accordance with applicable legislative requirements
  2. A centralised Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) with recovery of recyclates and creation and exporting of Refuse Derived Fuel to 3rd party Energy from Waste facilities, probably in the Central Belt of Scotland or North East of England, and
  3. Construction of an Energy from Waste facility on the same site as the MRF provided through Option 2, and using the RDF created there

    Members are being invited to agree with Option 2, to construct a new centralised waste management facility (Materials Recovery Facility) within the Inner Moray Firth area to recover recyclates and produce Refuse Derived Fuel, as the Council’s preferred interim arrangements for meeting the requirements of the ban on landfilling. This facility would process all of the Highland’s 83,000 tonnes of residual (non recyclable) waste from 2021 onwards.The Council will also decide on whether to investigate the viability of building an Energy from Waste Plant in the Inner Moray Firth.

  • The benefits of these proposals are that they will
    • Provide long-term skilled employment opportunities for plant operation
    • Contribute to the Council’s low carbon energy strategy and plans, by generating low carbon power for export to grid and heat for use locally by industry or in District Heating scheme
    • Provide a focus for future ‘green’ industrial development (through provision of low cost, low carbon process heat)
    • Reduce vehicle movements on the A9 by eliminating bulk haulage of waste to central Scotland
    • Contribute towards the Council’s sustainability objectives.
  • The Council has compared the cost of its current arrangements over 25 years against these proposals, and estimates that they would cost between £4 million and £20 million more over the same period. However, the doing nothing option is  unacceptable
  • The Council is also looking for suitable locations for these new facilities, and this is taking into account all the natural heritage and land use issues, including Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Nature Conservation areas
  • The Council’s Waste Awareness Team will continue to engage with the public including school pupils to promote the Council’s recycling facilities and to encourage waste minimisation to help meet the Council’s recycling and landfill targets set by the Scottish Government.
  • The Council is investigating how it can use the new facilities to help the Highlands minimise its impact on the environment by, for example, banning Single Use Plastics in its schools and offices, and tackling plastic litter on its coastline
  • In the longer term, the Council wants to take responsibility for dealing with its own waste at its own facility within the Highlands and not rely on facilities in the Central Belt or the North of England which involve costly and environmentally unfriendly transporting of waste
  • Modern Energy from Waste technology is well regulated and minimises harm to the environment. SEPA’s position on Energy from Waste is that appropriately located and well managed Energy from Waste (EfW) facilities, that meet modern requirements such as the stringent emission standards, should not cause significant pollution of the environment or harm human health.
  • The Council will continue to work within the waste hierarchy of Prevent, Reuse, Recycle, Recover Value

    With regards to recycling, SEPA’s position is that Energy from Waste is compatible with high rates of recycling. High recycling levels depend on efficient segregation of the recyclable materials: waste that cannot be technically or economically recycled can be processed and the energy recovered

    Currently almost all residual waste is landfilled with around 32,000 tonnes being bulked and transported out of the Highlands for landfill disposal in Aberdeenshire under a contract with SUEZ until September 2019. The remainder is landfilled at

  • Council sites at Seater in Caithness or Grainish in Aviemore, or
  • Duisky landfill site in Lochaber


    What is a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF)? These can fall into two main categories, those that are designed to process large volumes of mixed recyclables (e.g from the blue bins) into their individual material streams and prepare them for sale in the commodity markets; or , as in this case, others that deal with mixed residual waste and look to recover value from the material by removing a small amounts of recyclable streams such as metals and plastics, but in the main, producing a refuse derived fuel in readiness for sending to Energy from Waste facilities.

    What is Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF)? Fuel that is produced from waste that cannot currently be recycled.  Refuse derived fuel is used in thermal treatment facilities such as Energy from Waste plants and can generate electricity and hot water for communal heating systems in the local area.

    What is Energy from Waste? Energy from waste is the process of creating energy, in the form of electricity and/or heat, from treating waste at high temperature. Energy from waste facilities can be designed to provide power (electricity) and/or heat.

11 May 2018
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