SEPA releases metals and landfill sector plans to drive innovation

The Environment Agency (EA) has targeted 30 illegal waste sites across Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire in a day-long operation.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has released a Metals Sector Plan and a Landfill Sector Plan for Scotland to drive innovation and regulate the industries.  

These plans are two of 16 sector plans being launched by the organisation this year and sets out a range of actions to help all regulated businesses meet, and go beyond, their compliance obligations.    


In the Metals Sector Plan, SEPA has outlined a series of aims to help reduce the quantity of materials, energy and waste used across the metals industry. These include: 

  • Working with industry to identity innovative opportunities to displace virgin raw materials with recycled or recovered metals 
  • Working with manufacturers and recycling trade associations to understand implications of changing vehicle technology on end-of-life vehicle depollution and dismantling operators 
  • Examining how operators can better collect individual metal types and alloys 
  • Identifying and sharing opportunities to save energy by promoting the sector’s best practice in energy efficiency and low carbon energy projects that can be applied to the Scottish metal manufacturing processes 
  • Regulating baseline water use at metals production sites and finding opportunities for waste efficiency.  

Discussing the Metals Plan, SEPA chief executive Terry A’Hearn said: “Full compliance with environmental regulations will not, by itself deliver the transformational change required to secure our One Planet Prosperity objectives. The Metals Sector Plan needs to unlock the potential for businesses to gain strengths in resource efficiency and environmental innovation that will help them to succeed in their markets.” 

The plan looks at all regulated activities that involve the production of metal from raw materials, the manufacturing of metal products and the reprocessing, recycling and recovery of metallic waste.  

SEPA said that most operators involved in the production of metal and metal products from raw materials had an excellent or good compliance rating, but for licensed and permitted metal recycling and reprocessing sites, compliance in 2017 was 88%, compared to the national average of 90.9%

The organisation said that this decrease in compliance was due to the storage of polluted waste on permeable ground, non-provision of impermeable surface, waste data reporting and the failure to dep-pollute end-of-life- vehicles.  

Within the Landfill Sector Plan, SEPA said that it is one of the poorer compliance records that it regulates, and the impact of this performance is significant for the local environmental.

This problem reflects factors such as legacy issues, poor practices and the level of priority given the environmental compliance by operators, said SEPA. 

From this, the organisation said solving these issues is the primary focus of the sector plan and it will work to develop innovation on issues such as the capture of landfill gas.  

SEPA chief executive Terry A’Hearn said: “This plan is ambitious. It spells out how we will use traditional EPA regulatory tools, such as permits and enforcement, in clearer and more powerful ways. It sets out some completely new ways such as novel partnerships that we will develop and use to support innovation in this sector.” 

Within the plan, SEPA has stated that landfill operators will get the relationship that their attitude and performance earn, as the more an operator shows their performance is moving towards compliance, the more SEPA will support and provide guidance. 

Where there is a significant or chronic non-compliance, the more SEPA will enforce action including the use penalties.  

To improve compliance in the sector, SEPA will: 

  • Focus regulatory efforts on ensuring that only waste that cannot be recycled or recovered are being disposed of at Scottish landfills 
  • Support operators to prepare for the ban on landfilling biodegradable waste from January 2021 and the target of no more than 5% residual waste to landfill by 2025 
  • Develop effective intervention strategies to deter illegal activity in partnership with Police Scotland, local authorities, industry trade bodies and other UK environment agencies.

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