New arrangements for waste disposal in Highland

Viridor Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) in Dunbar, East Lothian.
Viridor Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) in Dunbar, East Lothian.

The Highland Council is pleased to announce that new arrangements for the disposal of mixed (black bag) waste from households and businesses are under-way. Waste from some areas of Highland will be delivered to the Viridor Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) in Dunbar, East Lothian.  Viridor will process and treat the waste, using it to generate electricity which is exported onto the National Grid.

Mixed waste from households and businesses in Skye and Lochalsh, and Badenoch and Strathspey have been diverted from landfill to Viridor’s facility from the beginning of January as part of the initial phase of the transition.  The next scheduled phase will see mixed waste from Inverness area and Nairnshire delivered to the facility from April, resulting in approximately 37,000 tonnes being processed to generate electricity rather than being landfilled.

Chair of Highland Council’s Communities and Place Committee, Councillor Graham MacKenzie, said: “I am delighted to see the Council take this important strategic step towards a more sustainable waste disposal solution and I am proud that these changes are being implemented in Highland well ahead of the Scottish Government’s ban on landfilling biodegradable waste on 31 December 2025.  

“Energy recovery is not only a safe and cost-effective waste disposal method but is better for the environment as it creates less greenhouse gas emissions compared to landfilling waste, even with the haulage taken into account.” 

He continued, “However, reducing our consumption and increasing recycling is still vitally important and ultimately has a greater impact on reducing our carbon emissions and conserving natural resources.”

He added, “In a recent analysis of waste in Highland carried out last year, a staggering 61% of the material in green (refuse) bins was found to be material that could be recycled using the facilities provided by the Council, or composted.  A large proportion of this was food waste with the remainder being metals, clothing, paper, card, electrical items, glass bottles and jars all of which are easily recyclable. This goes to show there is plenty of room for improvement when it comes to recycling.

“Our Business Waste customers will also see reductions in their carbon emissions when the waste we collect from them is diverted to Energy Recovery, helping them to adopt a more sustainable business model. We recognise how important this will be for businesses going forward and we are pleased to be able to offer options higher up the waste hierarchy within Highland.”

When biodegradable waste is landfilled it creates a powerful greenhouse gas, called Methane which is 25 times more potent than Carbon Dioxide. The waste hierarchy gives preference, after reuse and then recycling, to recovering value from mixed waste such as energy recovery, with disposal in landfill being the least preferable option.

Viridor Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) in Dunbar, East Lothian

Viridor Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) in Dunbar, East Lothian.

The Council has procured Viridor’s services with a 5-year contract which started on 1 January 2023 with a 3-year optional extension to process up to 72,000 tonnes of waste each year. Mixed (black bag) waste from Ross and Cromarty will be diverted from landfill to the Energy Recovery Facility from October 2023. The remainder of Highland’s mixed (black bag) waste will be transitioned to the Energy Recovery Facility in phases until 2025.   

Steven Don, Head of Contracts Scotland, Viridor commented: “We are delighted to be working with Highland Council to divert non-recyclable residual waste away from landfill, capturing its inherent energy to generate electricity.  Highland Council’s objectives to promote waste minimisation and to maximise recycling through utilisation of the Council’s recycling services are fully aligned with Viridor’s purpose of building a world where nothing goes to waste.”

The Highland Council currently collects and disposes of around 125,000 tonnes of waste produced by households and business waste customers each year. At present, 35% of this material is recycled.

To find out more about the energy recovery process, see the video at:

For tips on how to reduce your waste or for information on recycling please visit or email

28 Feb 2023