Could you be fined for putting the wrong things in your bin?

A row of household bins
New legislation in Scotland will change the way we use our bins [Getty Images]

Scottish homeowners could soon be issued with a fixed-penalty notice if they put the wrong items in their bins under a new law.

The Circular Economy bill, which aims to reduce waste nationwide and grow the green economy, is expected to be passed in Holyrood on Thursday.

The legislation would also ban the disposal of unsold goods, preventing companies from sending products which have not been bought to landfill.

A Scottish government spokesperson said the bill would support the country's transition to a zero-waste and circular economy.

What is a circular economy?

A circular economy is an economic system aimed at minimizing waste and making the most of resources.

It sees countries moving away from a traditional "make, use, dispose" model of production in favour of a "make, use, remake" one.

The model aims to ensure products, materials, and resources are reused, repaired, refurbished, and recycled for as long as possible.

Put simply, a circular economy is like a recycling system for everything.

According to Zero Waste Scotland, "evidence estimates around four-fifths of Scotland’s carbon footprint comes from the products and services we manufacture, use, and throw away."

The Scottish government said the bill would create new economic opportunities and green jobs.

A spokesperson added: "The Circular Economy Bill will support Scotland's transition to a zero-waste and circular economy, giving ministers and local authorities the tools they need to increase reuse and recycling rates, and modernise and improve waste and recycling services."

Single use cups
A charge will be introduced for single-use items like coffee cups [Getty Images]

What is included in the bill?

The bill aims to help turn Scotland into a circular economy.

Under the new legislation, local authorities would be granted powers to fine households for putting the incorrect items in their bins.

What items go in what bin can vary by council area but generally green bins are for mixed general waste and blue bins are for recycling.

This means that anyone that puts non-recyclable materials in their blue bins could be hit with a fine.

The bill also proposes:

  • Potential fines for car and van drivers if anyone is caught littering from their vehicle.

  • Additional enforcement powers for local authorities to crack down on fly-tipping.

  • The introduction of charges for single-use items like coffee cups and disposable vapes in an attempt to encourage the use of reusable alternatives.

  • Banning retailers and manufacturers from disposing of unsold goods and preventing companies from sending products to landfills which have not been bought.

  • And ministerial powers to set local recycling targets and a requirement to publish or refresh a circular economy strategy at least every five years.

Single-use plastics are already banned in Scotland, but charges on single-use items would be implemented for materials such as paper by 2025, if the legislation is passed. Trials conducted by Zero Waste Scotland, saw 25p added to the cost of a coffee.

The Scottish government said "a proportionate approach will be taken" to the rules on disposing of unsold good, focusing on businesses and products that have the most significant environmental impact in Scotland.

They will also take into account the availability of reuse and recycling as alternatives to destruction.

In France, clothing, cosmetics, hygiene products and electrical items are priorities for restrictions.

The government is said to be exploring options such as implementing a requirement for producers to "take their products back and manage them once used", according to the Scottish Environment Link.

According to the Circularity Gap Report in 2022, Scotland’s economy was only 1.3% circular, meaning it almost completely relied on new or virgin materials.

The Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland (APRS) has said 27% of people in Scotland favour making producers primarily responsible for the costs of recycling or disposing of products once they are no longer in use.

Some critics have said the legislation doesn't go far enough and there are concerns about the cost of implementing the new rules.

It is estimated that it would cost the Scottish government £1.6m over three years to implement the primary legislation.

The cost to each local authority over the same period would be just over £200,000.