Call to make failure to recycle a criminal offence in Scotland

There are calls to make failure to recycle a crime. Picture: Michael Gillen
There are calls to make failure to recycle a crime. Picture: Michael Gillen
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Holyrood ministers are to be asked for their view on a call to make failing to recycle a crime.

Campaigner Stephen Duff made the plea in a petition to the Scottish Parliament, saying “significant fines” should be brought in for those who fail to comply.

While recycling rates in Scotland are improving, Mr Duff told MSPs that at the current rate of progress it would take 42 years to achieve the target of having 70 per cent of household waste recycled.

As members of the Public Petitions Committee considered his case, convener Johann Lamont quipped: “I’ll be getting recycled by that point.”

The Scottish Government has set the target of reaching this level by 2025, prompting Mr Duff to demand “urgent action”.

His petition suggested: “It should be an offence to knowingly damage our precious environment by deliberately wasting valuable resources.

“Those who misuse ‘waste’ bins must be made accountable for their actions.”

In a written submission to MSPs, he said that while it was “encouraging to see the amount of waste going to landfill falling even slightly every year”, this was an area where “parliamentarians, working together, can make real progress”.

He continued: “As with other legislation, like dog licences, there could be an introductory ‘educational’ period to ease the transition, followed up by significant fines once everyone has the chance to adjust.

“Of course, on many occasions it would be almost impossible to work out who exactly was responsible for the offence, but in time the worst offenders would be caught and brought to justice, and perhaps more importantly Scotland would send a clear message that recycling is essential to our future well-being.”

Research from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre confirmed that in the London borough of Islington residents are required to recycle, with the council website stating it is “compulsory to recycle using your recycling services at home” and that recycling advisers can issue fines “as a last resort” to those who fail to comply.

However, in 2014 members of the Welsh Assembly’s Environment and Sustainability Committee of the National Assembly for Wales concluded fines are “currently unnecessary” and “there is still more that can be done to positively encourage behaviour change”.

MSPs on the Public Petitions Committee were not convinced by his call to make failing to recycle a criminal offence, with SNP MSP Rona Mackay saying: “I don’t think it’s realistic to say we should introduce legislation for this.

“It’s really up to local authorities to bring home the fact that recycling in their own area is brought up to target.”

Tory MSP Maurice Corry, who is also a councillor in Argyll and Bute, said criminalising not recycling would be “taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut”.

He said: “The problem is people are not being told by individual councils exactly what they can recycle, that’s the problem.”

Ms Lamont said while the committee was “not convinced criminalising not recycling is the way to go”, she said the petition “does raise quite interesting questions”, as members agreed to ask the Scottish Government for its views.