Councils would likely take a “light touch approach” if legislation introducing fixed penalty charges for households who put the wrong items in their bins was passed, MSPs have been told.
Gail Macgregor, leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council and the environment spokesperson for local government body Cosla, said the prospect of the charges was something they were “slightly concerned about”.
She spoke out as MSPs on Holyrood’s Net Zero Committee took evidence about proposals in the Circular Economy (Scotland) Bill.
As it stands, the legislation creates a “duty of care” for households with regards to waste and sets out for fixed penalty notices to be applied if the wrong items are placed in bins.
Tory MSP Douglas Lumsden highlighted the “potential for households to be fined for misusing waste collection services” as part of the Bill.
Ms Macgregor said Cosla was “looking at trying to encourage behaviour change” with regard to waste collections and added that “certainly the carrot, rather than the stick, would be preferable”.
Regarding the introduction of fixed penalty notices, she said there could be issues “around blocks of flats where there are shared bins and streets where we don’t know who has put waste into what bin”.
The council leader added: “I think to begin to look at penalties for households could be quite punitive.
“As an example, if you live in a block of flats and you are recycling to the absolute letter, but your neighbour chucks something into your bin and you end up getting penalised for, that they are worst-case scenarios obviously.
“I think that councils would take a lighter-touch approach.”
Ms Macgregor went on to state that she did not think councils would be “pushing down the enforcement route at this particular stage as a preference”.
Rhona Gunn, deputy chief executive of Moray Council, who was representing the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers, told MSPs the prospect of the charges had “raised a number of concerns”.
She raised concerns it could create a two-tier system, saying that while for many people “recycling appropriately might not be problematic”, there could be people in “more complex households” who could be at risk of being fined.
Ms Gunn added that when similar financial penalties were introduced in England “that was not seen to be driving a step change there” as she stressed it was “important we learn lessons from what has been tried in other areas in terms of what has been shown to be successful and what is less successful”.
She added: “Behaviour change is what will drive changes in kerbside recycling and contamination of waste by householders first and foremost, and not the imposition of penalties in my view.”