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Carbon metric highlights Scottish recycling

Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) has used a carbon metric rather than material weight to report the nation’s progress in recycling.

Its carbon metric index was first developed in 2011 and takes into account the greenhouse gas emissions associated with waste, from the energy and raw materials that went into producing items, through to the impact of transporting materials to be recycled.

The results were announced by ZWS chief executive Iain Gulland at a circular economy event in Seville hosted by the Association of Cities and Regions for Recycling and sustainable Resource management.

In 2013, the carbon impact of waste in Scotland was 10.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (10.8 Mt CO2e), down from 13.1 Mt CO2e in 2011, when measurements started.

Gulland said the metric had the potential to change the way society thinks about waste and to manage it.

“What these new figures show is that by recycling more we really are making a difference to the environment, not just here in Scotland, but globally too, by reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

“It shows that we are right to target recycling of things like metals and food waste as these have a very high carbon impact.”

Environment secretary Richard Lochhead said: “The latest results reveal that recycling in Scottish homes and businesses is delivering real benefits, with a big carbon saving achieved between 2011 and 2013. These are results to be proud of, and should spur us on to continue to redouble our recycling efforts.”

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