EACH week Scotland's households go through the task of taking out recycling wheelie-bins to help drive the nation's green credentials.

But Scotland's system for disposing of waste has been described as "disjointed" with fundamental concerns the nation will not even be prepared for a landfill ban already delayed by four years until 2025.

The Scottish government wants to stop traditional black bag waste and a range of recyclable materials being buried in the ground.

But the Scottish Environmental Services Association, which is working to transform waste management across the country, has called for urgent action now to ensure that millions of tonnes of black bag waste does not end up having to be shipped from Scotland to England to be disposed of in six years time.

And it wants councils to take more effective action to avoid the use of landfill.

Official figures reveal that in April just 14 of Scotland's 32 councils had already made the financial investment to ensure solutions are in place before the 2021 landfill ban, accounting for just 55% of municipal waste.  This was despite the fact the planned ban was announced in 2012.

Nine councils making up 23% of municipal waste had no plan at all for the ban, while others had long-term solutions but not an interim one, or vice-versa.

"There is a disjointed approach to waste disposal as a whole," warned SESA policy advisor, Stephen Freeland who says that the ban  needs to be "properly planned for".

A key reason for delaying the ban was that experts believed Scotland had insufficient capacity to meet the expected level of need , with a gap predicted of one million tonnes of waste per year in 2021.

"If the ban had gone ahead in 2021, there would be 1 million tonnes of black bag waste that couldn’t go to landfill, and with no spare room in existing Energy From Waste (EfW) plants it would likely have been destined for landfill in England.

"The same scenario still applies for 2025 unless we start building new EfW facilities right now.  That can only be address by investing in infrastructure.

"And the councils being ready is pivotal. They have to play ball.   Perhaps they don't think there will be a ban."

The appeal comes after Robert Etherson, founder and partner of Energen Biogas, told the Herald that the general public is not sufficiently buying into recycling because of the Scottish Government’s failure to properly communicate the benefits.

Ministers have been praised for making Scotland the first part of the UK to make organic food collections mandatory, which means households and businesses must have separate collections for organic waste material.

But critics point out that while the SNP’s Zero Waste Plan set a 2013 target of 50 per cent household recycling - four years on councils were still falling short of the target, at only 45.6 per cent in 2017.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency figures showed only a slight increase on the 45% recorded for 2016 with councils remaining short of the Scottish Government standard.

East Renfrewshire is recorded as Scotland’s highest recycling performer, with a 67.1% rate, while Shetland Islands recorded the lowest rate of 8%.

An estimated two million tonnes of “black bag” residual waste is produced in Scotland each year that is within the scope of the ban.

And SESA say it is crucial that there are enough Energy from Waste plants that can cope with black bag biodegradable waste that needs to be disposed of in Scotland every day.

At the moment this goes to landfill or to EfW plants where it is burnt to produce low carbon heat and electricity for the national grid.

SESA say that EfW diverts biodegradable municipal waste from landfill, thus helping to secure Scotland’s compliance with the ban.

But the worry is not just that there are not enough EfW sites in Scotland to take all the waste by 2021 - but that there is not enough being built to deal with in 2025.

According to new data provided to the Herald, there are currently five operational EfW sites in Scotland that have a permitted capacity of 818,500 tonnes.

It was estimated by SESA that there would have been a total of about 950,000 tonnes of EfW capacity by 2021, with one site in the process of being commissioned.

SESA say the lead time for an EfW is about seven years from design to being operation – so only the projects currently in the pipeline have a realistic chance of being ready.

According to current SEPA data about present and future developments seen by the Herald, there are only just enough EfW plants in the pipeline, if they come to fruition, to potentially cover the one million tonne gap.

But Mr Freeland said there are questions over the extent to which proposed plants would even able to handle the black bag waste, warning: "We need to have confidence in where future projects are at, because nobody knows."

But the amount of biodegradable municipal waste being sent to landfill has been falling albeit slowly,  with 1.09 million tonnes going to landfill in 2017.

Last year, SEPA warned landfill operators that they will have the statutory duty to check what is being placed in their dumps, to ensure that none of it is biodegradable.

And SESA are further concerned over plans by the Scottish Government to put up the landfill tax to put local authorities off relying on them therefore incentivising change fearing it might make transporting waste to England more cheaper.

"We are currently on £91.35 a tonne mark for biodegradable waste," added Mr Freeland.. "We have to be careful with tweaking it, because the waste will go to the cheapest disposal point. If it increases too much it may go to England."

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) has said that councils need to see more investment from Holyrood ahead of the Scottish government’s Circular Economy Bill,  aimed at reducing waste and cutting emissions.

The consultation paper on the bill outlines measures including placing additional requirements on local authorities to improve household recycling, alongside measures to prevent waste crime.

But Cosla has warned that improvements in recycling and waste management will be impossible if local authorities do not have the funding to transition to the new schemes which the bill will include.

Steven Heddle, COSLA’s environment and economy spokesperson, said after the consultation was launched last month: “In recent decades councils have invested heavily in kerbside recycling and have built up considerable expertise in making local recycling schemes work effectively.

“Whatever approach is chosen as a result of this consultation, the diverse challenges facing councils across mainland Scotland and the islands must be addressed.”

Mr Heddle added: “Improvements in recycling figures will only happen with increased investment, which is difficult given continued pressure on local authority budgets.”

When the decision to delay the  ban on landfilling biodegradable municipal waste was made in September, environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said it was because some public and private waste managers were not yet prepared.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scotland has generated its lowest level of household waste since recording began in 2011 and, for a second year in a row, we recycled or composted more than we threw away to landfill.

“Significant progress has made by many local authorities in preparing for the ban on sending biodegradable municipal waste to landfill and additional energy from waste plants are in development. 

“We expect remaining local authorities and the commercial sector to make further progress at pace towards the revised  2025 target date.”