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Western Isles: Area Waste Plan

As part of the National Waste Strategy: Scotland, each Waste Strategy Area has gone through a process which has resulted in the formulation of an Area Waste Plan.

This Area Waste Plan is the way in which the Waste Strategy Area plan to deal with its waste in order to meet the targets set out in the EC Landfill Directive and to develop more sustainable methods of waste management.

Following is a short summary of the process that was undergone in the Western Isles:

2001: The Baseline

The Western Isles have a population of 28,240. In 1999 30,000 tonnes of waste were produced from this area. Around 28,000 tonnes of waste are sent to landfills - mostly the Bennadrove landfill near Stornoway.

The Western Isles produced a paper in November 2001, which explores waste management issues in the area and examines the options for the future. It is available at www.sepa.org.uk/nws/areas

The Western Isles Area Waste Group (AWG) has come up with 5 options for future waste management. These are:

  • Option 1: Increasing waste minimsiation and recycling.
  • Option 2: Increasing waste minimisation and recycling, and constructing an Energy from Waste plant, which would allow the recovery of electricity or heat through the burning of non-recyclable waste. This would mean that there would be far less landfilling. Waste would have to be imported from the Highlands in order for the plant to be economically viable.
  • Option 3: Increasing waste minimisation and recycling, with the emphasis on composting. This will also reduce the amount of waste going to landfills. In this case again, waste would have to be imported from the mainland.
  • Option 4: As above, but with a central anaerobic digestion facility instead of composting. The process of anaerobic digestion is similar and produces concentrated fertiliser. This again reduces the amount of waste going to landfills.
  • Option 5: This last option would also involve an increased level of waste minimisation and recycling, but all the other waste will be exported to the mainland for disposal.

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2002: The Draft Area Waste Plan

Due to its unique geography, the Western Isles must bear extremely high waste disposal costs - the waste has to be shipped to disposal sites. It therefore makes inherent sense for the Isles to achieve self-sufficiency in waste disposal, so as to avoid the additional cost of shipping to the mainland. Furthermore, in principle, waste export should not be undertaken unless it has been deemed the Best Practicable Environmental Option for both the importing and exporting areas.

Historically, each household disposed of its waste in its own midden, however today, due to the nature of modern waste and the increasingly stringent Health and Safety laws, this is now neither permitted nor sustainable.

In order to meet the targets specified in the EC Landfill Directive, by the year 2020, the Western Isles will have to reduce the amount of Biodegradable Municipal Waste (BMW) going to landfill to 35% of 1995 levels. In other words, in the year 2020, less than 5,000 tonnes of BMW will be allowed to go into landfill sites. This means that almost 6,000 tonnes of BMW will have to be kept out of landfills.

The Western Isles Waste Strategy Area Group has decided to tackle this by developing a central anaerobic digestion facility (Option 4 - see above). This will turn the BMW into low-grade compost that can then be used to improve the poor soils of the islands. The advantage of anaerobic digestion is that the methane gas produced during the process is a source of energy.

In addition to this, some emphasis will be placed on reducing waste generation, and recycling that which is generated.

Again, due to the dispersed geography of the region, there is a need to improve access to recycling and composting facilities for those who live in remote areas.

At present, some recycling schemes are being developed, mostly in the Stornoway area. Plastic bottles, aluminium cans, scrap cars and oil will be collected and exported to the mainland for reprocessing. Glass and paper will be reprocessed locally.

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In July 2002, the Scottish Waste Awareness Group undertook a study of attitudes and behaviours of the Islanders with respect to waste. Watch this space for the results.

The full text of the Western Isles Draft Area Waste Plan can be downloaded from the SEPA website.

2003: The Area Waste Plan

In March of this year, the Western Isles Area Waste Plan was published.

Here are some of the targets that the plan aims to achieve:

  • paper, card, kitchen and garden waste will be collected separately from households. It will then be recycled into compost;
  • there will be more recycling centres and points, where you will be able to recycle metal, glass and plastic by 2010;
  • composting plants will be constructed;
  • the Rueval landfill site will be closed in 2007.

If you would like to read the plan, please click here to download it from the SEPA website.

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