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Making Things Last - A Circular Economy Strategy for Scotland

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Foreword by Richard Lochhead

photograph of Richard Lochhead

I am proud to present "Making Things Last": Scotland's first circular economy strategy.

In a world of finite resources, where global population and consumption growth are driving increased volatility and vulnerability in the supply of raw materials, the circular economy offers a new and exciting perspective. This creates a variety of opportunities from making goods to last longer, ready to be upgraded and repaired, to reducing our need for raw materials and helping us get smarter at recycling. For me, the circular economy is about the environment, the economy, and people. And above all it is about the moral imperative to reduce our demand on the planet's resources.

For example, between now and 2020, we'll import about £50 million worth of gold into Scotland hidden away in our TVs, mobile phones and computers, but we'll recover just a tiny fraction of that.

From an environmental perspective, the opportunities of a more circular economy are fundamental to the Scottish Government's approach to tackling emissions arising from the consumption of goods, to help tackle climate change. Zero Waste Scotland estimate that, by 2050, a more circular economy could reduce carbon emissions by 11 million tonnes per year.

Scotland's Economic Strategy, and our new strategy for manufacturing - A Manufacturing Future for Scotland launched by the First Minister in February 2016 - clearly set out the economic opportunities of a more circular approach. From a business perspective, the circular economy agenda is one of innovation, seeking new ways to reduce our call on natural resources and keeping materials flowing through the economy at as high a value as possible for as long as possible. Remanufacturing alone has the potential to create an additional £620 million turnover and 5,700 new jobs by 2020.

But it is the choices made by consumers - the public - that will ultimately determine success. At the forefront of my mind is the idea of "Making Things Last", and the potential for the reuse of goods and materials to help protect the environment, and deliver social and economic benefits to our communities.

The opportunities of a more circular economy seem endless, and the concept can be daunting. This strategy does not attempt to cover everything that might be possible, and as we understand more about the dynamics of a circular economy in the light of experience, we will update our approach. But this strategy sets out our early priorities for action, in the areas where Scotland is in a position to make rapid progress, such as remanufacturing; and the areas where we have the scope to deliver the most significant environmental and economic benefits, such as in the food and bio economy sectors, energy infrastructure and construction.

Whether it be designing complex products in a way that enables them to be remanufactured, or simply empowering people to repair household items instead of throwing them away, the concept of making things last makes sense for business, industry, public organisations and individuals.

There are two key elements of this strategy that will bring together all sectors, and individuals, to work together towards a more circular economy. Our ideas on a better approach to producer responsibility - ensuring that provision for dealing with products at the end of their lives is fully taken into consideration when they are placed on the market - are intended to stimulate debate. And our food waste reduction target of 33% by 2025, the first such target in Europe, will act as a catalyst for action along the whole supply chain, from farm to plate.

This strategy takes the targets and ambitions in our Zero Waste Plan and in Safeguarding Scotland's Resources and places them firmly in the context of our action for a more circular economy. And this strategy has been developed, and will be delivered, in partnership with Zero Waste Scotland, the enterprise agencies and SEPA. Our action towards a more circular economy, together with the Manufacturing Action Plan, will be supported by over £70m of investment, including £30m of European Structural Funds; and we see a number of opportunities in the European Commission's Circular Economy Package.

Our recent work on the Scottish Household Recycling Charter reflected a truly collaborative approach to policy making between national and local government, with support from business, industry and the third sector. I want to continue and extend that partnership, in particular to work with environmental NGOs, to help people understand that our resources are finite, and that we cannot continue our patterns of consumption. We need the concept of a more circular economy, and its benefits to the environment, to become better understood by a wider range of people. It is only through this collaborative approach that we will make a difference.

Initiatives like the tool library on Leith Walk in Edinburgh or Mackie's gearbox remanufacturing in Glasgow help bring to life just how sensible a circular economy is.

A more circular economy, where we make things last, is an economic, environmental and moral necessity. It will help conserve our finite resources, help support jobs in our communities and improve our quality of life. It just makes good sense.

RICHARD LOCHHEAD