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Low Carbon Scotland: Meeting our Emissions Reduction Targets 2013-2027 - The Draft Second Report on Proposals and Policies


8. Waste and resource efficiency

8.1.1 This chapter addresses greenhouse gas emissions that arise from waste. When organic materials break down in landfill sites they produce potent greenhouse gases, mainly methane which is 27 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Over 92% of territorial emissions in the waste sector arise from landfill.

8.2 Our ambitions for decarbonising waste

8.2.1 We published our Zero Waste Plan[178] in 2010, setting out our vision for a zero waste society; a society where waste is a valuable resource, landfill is phased out, and increasing amounts of materials are reused or recycled, leaving only limited amounts to be treated. This is complemented by actions to progressively design out avoidable waste from our economy.

8.2.2 The Zero Waste Plan sets waste management targets including:

  • the proportion of household waste and subsequently recycled, composted and/or prepared for re-use. The targets are 40% by 2010, 50% by 2013, 60% by 2020 and 70% by 2025 respectively;
  • recycling 70% of all waste (including commercial and industrial waste) by 2025; and
  • reducing the proportion of total waste sent to landfill to a maximum of 5% of all waste by 2025.

8.2.3 By 2050, we aim to achieve full recycling of our waste; landfill will no longer be necessary, and waste as we know it will have been designed out of our economy and way of life. Scottish companies will not only be reprocessing recycled materials for new products, they will be at the forefront of changes to manufacturing and retail that will have transformed how goods and services are provided to the public (Figure 8.1).

8.3 Where we are now

8.3.1 In 1999, Scotland produced 14.6 million tonnes of waste, with around 10.9 million tonnes going to landfill and less than 5% recycled. Today our recycling rate is over 40% and we have reduced the total amount of waste sent to landfill by 58% i.e. 6.3 million tonnes (2010-11).

8.3.2 In 1990, Scottish emissions from waste management were 5.8 MtCO2e. In 2010, waste contributed 2.2MtCO2e or 4% of total Scottish emissions[179]. The combined effect of reduced waste to landfill and action to mitigate or capture landfill gases meant emissions had fallen to 2.1MtCO2e, a fall of more than 68%.

Highlights of progress to date

Through our Low Carbon Vehicle Procurement Support Scheme, and membership of the UK Government's Plugged in Places, we have invested £9 million in LCVs and charging infrastructure over 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13. Scotland's public sector has purchased around 270 LCVs including cars, vans and street sweepers, and installed over 500 charging posts. Since 2010, the Green Bus Fund has provided support of £5.8 million to eight bus operators for the purchase of 71 new hybrid buses. Each new bus is expected to produce 30% less emissions and require 60% less fuel than a diesel bus, to deliver an average emissions reduction of around 21 tCO2e per year or 300 tCO2e over its life-cycle. A further £3 million for a third round of the Fund was announced in August 2012. The current round has attracted bids from five operators for funding to allow purchase of an additional 45 LCVs. If approved, these bids will receive grant totalling £2.5 million, bringing total grant under the Fund to approximately £8.3 million. Thus, the Fund will have provided support for a total of approximately 116 green buses, achieving an estimated reduction of emissions totalling 36 ktCO2e over the life cycle of the vehicles. Cycling. We are continuing to support local authorities and stakeholders in their efforts to encourage active travel by our investment of additional funding over the next three years of £13 million, announced in February 2012, with a further stimulus of £6 million in September 2012. On 2 January 2013, we announced a further £3.9 million investment over the next two financial years. This financial commitment also supports year-on-year increases in the percentage of school children receiving on-road cycle training and a major road safety campaign aimed at vehicle drivers. There is potential to achieve greater returns from investment in this area by exploring any possible opportunities to incorporate cycle way improvements in roads projects.

of reduced waste to landfill and action to mitigate or capture landfill gases meant emissions had fallen to 2.1 MtCO2e, a fall of more than 68%.

Figure 8.1: Zero Waste- a more circular model of resource use

Figure 8.1: Zero Waste- a more circular model of resource use

8.4 Decarbonisation policies

8.4.1 Landfill gas is the main waste related contributor to our territorial greenhouse gas emissions. In 2012, the Scottish Parliament passed the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012.[180] These regulations introduced measures to transform how waste and recyclables are processed in Scotland. Specific measures introduced by the regulations include:

  • a requirement for businesses to present dry recyclables (metals, plastics, paper, card and glass) and food waste for collection;
  • a requirement on local authorities to provide householders with a collection service for dry recyclables and food waste;
  • a ban on materials collected separately for recycling going to landfill or incineration; and
  • introducing a ban on biodegradable municipal waste going to landfill by the end of 2020.

8.4.2 These regulations will progressively change both the amount and composition of waste going to landfill. The combined effect of these regulations will be to reduce annual emissions from landfill by 214ktCO2e in 2027.

Global pressures on resources

By 2050, we will share our planet with two billion more citizens. Furthermore, estimates indicate that three billion new wealthier consumers will enter the global market by 2030. Business and global economies may thrive on providing for these new demands, but they will place further strains on natural resources. Demographic and consumer trends are already heightening global competition for a range of resources. Prices of food, non-food agricultural items, metals, and energy are at a higher level than at any time in the past century. These trends are already affecting businesses.

In a recent survey[181] over 80% of chief executives of manufacturing companies said that raw materials shortage was a risk to their business in 2012. While we expect these pressures to lead businesses to look much harder at their processes to reduce reliance on materials, we are working to insulate our economy from such resource pressures and to take advantage of the economic opportunities they will bring.

8.5 Using waste to generate energy and reduce emissions

8.5.1 Waste has the potential to be a considerable source of energy. For instance, if all of the estimated two million tonnes of annual food waste in Scotland was used in anaerobic digestion, it could generate enough electricity to power a city the size of Dundee, while also producing fertilisers that meet 10% of our arable farming needs.

8.6 Decarbonising proposal

8.6.1 We are examining opportunities for capturing gas from closed or inactive landfill sites. Methane capture can be economically viable and incentives, such as the renewable obligation certificates[182], already provide financial support to landfill operators. However, once landfill sites close the capture rates are generally too small to make investment in gas capture infrastructure viable.

Energy from waste

In 2010, the Sustainable Development Commission[183] reported that energy from waste could contribute around 3% of Scotland's total heat and electricity demand. The study focused on the use of combustion and anaerobic digestion with biogas capture and the main technologies that could contribute to these outputs. It emphasised that the greatest output could be achieved if thermal output is used for heat, as this would be more than 80% efficient. Thermal only output could equate to around 6% of Scotland's existing heat demand.

These opportunities need to be set against the Scottish Government's policy of continually reducing Scotland's residual waste and minimising the need for residual waste treatment through increased rates of recycling and reuse, and waste prevention.

8.6.2 Through Zero Waste Scotland[184], we are mapping out opportunities for enhanced gas capture across Scotland. The final report will provide the basis from which to make the future policy decisions required to achieve the abatement potential.

8.7 Supporting and enabling measures

8.7.1 The Zero Waste Plan is an economic strategy: it aims to maximise the value of all the material resources we use in our economy, helping to create new business opportunities as well as helping businesses and local authorities find savings in how they use materials and manage their waste.

8.7.2 At the heart of these changes is a shift toward a more circular model of resource use and economic growth that ultimately designs waste out of our economy (Figure 8.1). This isn't simply about using less and recycling more. It's about supporting new forms of manufacturing, redesigning products and packaging, reshaping supply chains and stimulating innovative new ways to transform recyclables into new, higher value materials. The opportunities stretch across all sectors, from the motor industry to the oil industry through to retail and farming.

Changeworks Recycling's Business Recycling Services - Our Dynamic Earth

Changeworks Recycling carries out free and bespoke waste audits for all clients to enable them to engage with the waste they produce. An audit carried out for Dynamic Earth enabled it to focus in on a number of key waste reduction areas, and to understand how working practices could be changed to divert food waste from landfill.

To inspire staff Changeworks arranged a visit to the Scottish Parliament to allow Our Dynamic Earth staff to see food waste recycling operations. This provided Dynamic Earth with the knowledge and techniques to embed new waste reduction techniques, resulting in a 300% increase in food waste recycling.

Behaviour change

8.7.3 Section 3.5, earlier in this document, discusses the important role of understanding and influencing behaviour in meeting our climate change targets. The required shift in how materials are used in our economy needs a step change in our behaviour toward valuable items often discarded as waste. A key element of our national engagement is through our Greener Scotland campaign[185] which aims to motivate collective action to help make Scotland a cleaner, greener place. A recent focus of this campaign has been preventing food waste and future campaign work will focus on recycling Scotland's food waste.

Market development

8.7.4 Through Zero Waste Scotland and the enterprise agencies we are working to encourage investment in new forms of infrastructure to increase 'closed-loop' recycling of materials and to support increased reuse/repair of products, This includes:

  • investing £6 million in Scotland's anaerobic digestion capacity;
  • supporting the development of new plastics reprocessing infrastructure through loan and capital grant funds;
  • developing the evidence base for reprocessing of materials including nappies, end of life vehicles and tyres; and
  • providing funds to support innovation and investment in leading edge technologies.

Resource efficiency

8.7.5 Using materials more efficiently and preventing waste is fundamental to addressing the carbon impacts. Zero Waste Scotland already provides advice and support to many businesses to help them improve their resource efficiency. From April 2013, the new single Resource Efficient Scotland service will provide a more accessible integrated business and public sector energy and resource efficiency service with a focus on implementation to maximise the carbon and financial benefits of resource efficiency actions.

Waste and global carbon emissions

8.7.6 In 2011, we introduced a world leading Carbon tool[186] for measuring benefits of recycling over landfill. The tool not only looks at the avoided methane emissions from landfill, it assesses the "life-cycle" carbon emissions created from the production and consumption of materials, and calculates that amount of carbon saved through recycling those materials instead of relying on new raw materials. The tool is currently being updated to allow us to examine the global carbon benefits of all actions taken in Scotland to recycle, reuse or prevent waste.

8.8 Costs and benefits

8.8.1 The overall cost of managing the implementation of the Zero Waste plan and the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012 will be significantly lower than the current cost of dealing with Scotland's waste. There is a net financial saving of the order of £17million per year, with savings increasing to over £21million by 2025. This amounts to a total saving of £173million in net present value terms over the period 2013-2025.

8.8.2 Environmental benefits are estimated to be in the region of £1.4billion (net present value) following full implementation of the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012. Most of these environmental benefits are attributed to reduced global carbon emissions.

Supporting innovation through public procurement

By creating new markets for sustainable products and services, public procurement can play a critical role in attracting investment in new infrastructure and the creation of new supply chains for sustainable products and services.

One example would be refurbished IT and telecommunication equipment. If sections of the public sector were committed to purchasing a fixed proportion of refurbished IT and telecommunication equipment, it could help stimulate investment in new or existing sophisticated refurbishment, facilities to supply the new demand for these products in Scotland, creating new jobs and growth of an important manufacturing base. For the public sector, such investment could help create a stable supply chain of low carbon and resource efficient goods. The Scottish Government's Procurement reform work includes a series of proposals on the smarter use of public procurement to encourage innovation and growth.

8.8.3 A recent UK study estimated around 2.3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) could be saved through straightforward resource efficiency measures by using raw materials more efficiently and generating less waste[187]. In 2010, that would have translated into potential savings in excess of £2.9billion to the Scottish economy. Around half of the savings (£1.54billion) would be made within businesses. The research also looked at longer-term best practice savings that could be achievable by 2050, giving an additional savings potential of around 5% of GDP - more than £6.3billion on current figures.

Highlights of progress to date

The recycling and composting rate for household waste has increased from less than 5% in 1999 to over 40% in 2011.

The Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012 are creating a step change in the availability and quality of recycling services available to homes and businesses across Scotland.

Seventeen local authorities are currently offering a household food waste collection covering approximately 665,500 properties or 28% of total households.

8.9 Waste and resource efficiency - abatement summary

Waste and Resource Efficiency Earliest start date Annual Abatement (KtCO2e) 2020 Annual Abatement (KtCO2e) 2027
Zero Waste Policies
(pre May-2010)
<2010 748 871
Zero Waste Plan 2010 141 290
Enhanced Capture of Landfill Gas 2013 163 140