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Ground zero for Scottish waste

Scotland’s Zero Waste Plan was launched in June 2010, setting out Scotland’s vision and ambition for a zero-waste society, where waste is viewed as a resource. The plan aims to involve householders, businesses, community groups and local authorities to all play their part in maximising the value of the resources used in Scotland.

It is primarily an economic blueprint designed not just to shift materials away from landfill, but also to ensure those resources make an economic difference within Scotland. 

The reality is that the Scottish people cannot continue to create waste on the same scale as they have in the past. With almost 17 million tonnes of waste produced every year, the plan essentially sets out a new way of looking at the materials Scotland produces, with measures in place to make the shift from ‘waste’ to ‘resource’.

Zero Waste Scotland is the programme leading the charge towards creating a zero-waste society. Established in April 2011, the programme is delivered by WRAP on behalf of the Scottish Government to support the delivery of the Zero Waste Plan.

It works in conjunction with partners including the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Enterprise and councils to deliver collective action on the ground.  

And Scotland is already making commendable progress in achieving this zero-waste vision, with a number of programmes inspiring action and helping to achieve ambitious targets of 70% of all waste to be recycled, and a maximum 5% of waste sent to landfill, by 2025.

Providing a framework to help Scotland achieve its zero-waste targets, the Scottish Government passed Waste (Scotland) Regulations in May. They require all waste producers to present key recyclable materials separately for recycling by January 2014. 

For businesses in food production, food retail and food preparation, separating food waste will also be required. Those producing more than 50kg a week will be asked to comply by January 2014 and those producing less than 50kg will have to follow suit by January 2016. 

In addition, most householders can expect to see changes to local recycling services as councils are also required to provide separate collections for paper, card, glass, plastics, metals and food waste. 

In recent years, Scotland has made substantial progress in recycling, with household rates having jumped from around 5% to almost 40% in the past 10 years. But we need to do more to ensure Scotland makes the most of the resources it has and takes advantage of the economic opportunities of doing so.

Research has shown that meeting the target of 70% of all waste being recycled by 2025 could benefit Scotland’s economy by at least £178m through savings on waste disposal charges such as landfill tax.

Everything Zero waste Scotland does is driven by ensuring that resources are consumed more efficiently, fewer resources are allowed to become waste and more value is added to recyclable resources within the country’s economy. It essentially offers a one-stop shop to make it easier for businesses and individuals to get the help and advice they need - whether locating recycling facilities, developing sustainable products and packaging or cutting costs by managing business waste.

The waste plan has detailed the priorities for Zero Waste Scotland, from driving new food waste collections and recycling services to helping businesses achieve savings through resource efficiency, and working with the recycling industry on quality.

Recent announcements from the programme have included: a £500,000 investment for more recycling bins in public places; a call for a builder or developer to design and construct a house to showcase the principles of resource efficiency; the opening of a £75,000 fund to tackle fly-tipping; and £900,000 to developing a pilot to trial container deposit schemes.

Councils have a pivotal role to play in helping Scotland move towards a zero-waste society.

A number of projects have been undertaken to help the transition, including a £5m investment in supporting increased food waste collections, support for a trial nappy recycling service and support to drive up participation rates, building on the successful ‘Recycle for Scotland’ brand.

Waste management also provides a compelling message in terms of bottom line savings for business, with Scottish organisations sending more than 6.5 million tonnes of waste to landfill every year.

Aside from providing practical advice for businesses, Zero Waste Scotland has also provided more than £200,000 in funding to encourage innovation among smaller companies to launch products and services which will significantly affect waste reduction. 

Iain Gulland, director of Zero Waste Scotland, says: “This shows the scope of programmes we Are delivering and the range of sectors our work cuts across.

“However, we do know the new regulations will not deliver change by themselves, and that we also need to educate and influence a continuing change of mindset around waste and resources. This is where our involvement in national campaigns such as ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ helps us to engage with people to transform the way they produce or consume goods and services.

“Zero Waste Scotland has a major role to play in working with the industry to ensure it is ready to capitalise on the opportunities presented by the regulations and Scotland’s overall commitment to achieving zero waste. We want to encourage a shared purpose across sectors towards making Scotland an exemplar of good resource management.”

Iain Gulland is director, Zero Waste Scotland

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