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Making Things Last - A Circular Economy Strategy for Scotland

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Making the transition

A truly circular economy is a long term ambition, given the complexity of existing supply chains, the changes in approach required by a range of players, and the as yet unknown technological and research developments that lie ahead. It is important to take steps now to set the direction of travel and support the journey.

The case for a more circular economy is clear from an environment perspective. From a business perspective, a move to a more circular economy supports Scotland's Economic Strategy and the four priorities identified within: Innovation, Inclusive Growth, Internationalisation and Investment, and the Manufacturing Action Plan[4].

The global economy is still at the early stages of this transition and the EU Circular Economy Package[5] will influence the direction and pace of Scotland's journey. This transformation will also require societal change, so there are key roles for business leaders, for Government, its agencies and the wider public sector, and for people and communities across Scotland.

To consider what a circular economy would look like, we first need to understand the specific changes required across society. The diagram below illustrates the different ways in which the use of goods and physical assets can be increased, prolonging their life and shifting resource use from finite to renewable sources.

moving to a circular economy

This strategy identifies our priority areas for Scotland, articulating our aspirations and proposing a number of actions to take us towards those goals. It focuses on actions which make tangible progress over the short to medium term and creates the conditions for longer-term change.

This strategy builds on the progress that has been made on the zero waste and resource efficiency agenda, but scopes out ambition and action into a much broader set of business and industry opportunities. We have also integrated the key elements of the Zero Waste Plan (2010) and Safeguarding Scotland's Resources (2013) into this strategy. The intention is that this strategy, and the actions that will flow from it, will in due course supersede both of those documents.

In setting out our priorities and aspirations for a circular economy, we are leading by example and will collaborate with other countries to address what will often be global or international challenges.

Through the Enterprise Agencies, SEPA, Zero Waste Scotland and other partners we will take a holistic approach to supporting innovation in delivering this strategy. We will offer support in integrated ways that recognises, for example, that companies may wish to consider opportunities in design, repair and remanufacturing at the same time. The Manufacturing Action Plan is an example of cross-agency collaboration, which provides integrated support for circular economy innovation across manufacturing sub-sectors.

Work will focus on four priority areas due to the resources that they use and their importance to the Scottish economy, tackling environmental and economic objectives in parallel. These are woven into different chapters of this document. These priority areas also align with the focus of Innovation Centres and the Scottish Institute for Remanufacture. The areas are:

  • Food and drink, and the broader bio-economy - Zero Waste Scotland's report on beer, whisky and fish production identified potential savings of between £500 million and £800 million per year.
  • Remanufacture - which contributes £1.1 billion to annual economic activity with potential to add an additional £620 million by 2020.
  • Construction and the built environment - representing about 50% of all waste arising in Scotland; influencing the built environment has an impact on wider resource efficiency.
  • Energy infrastructure - with the recent growth in renewables and £30-35 billion of oil and gas decommissioning spend expected by 2040, the potential for added value is significant.

The strategy also includes a new Scottish food waste reduction target, which is the first of its kind in Europe. This target, to cut food waste by a third by 2025, will put Scotland at the front of global action to tackle food waste and is in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal 12 target[6] related to food waste.

The potential financial savings from this reduction in food waste are likely to be in the hundreds of millions per year; increasing the Scottish food & drink sector's competitiveness, offering savings for households across Scotland and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

We will also explore a new approach to Producer Responsibility, through a single framework for all product types that drives choices for reuse, repair and remanufacture, while more fully exposing and addressing the costs of recycling and disposal. Over and above existing producer responsibility schemes for batteries, electronic equipment, end of life vehicles and packaging, we will also prioritise schemes for tyres, furniture and mattresses.

Producer responsibility has the potential to significantly influence producer and consumer choices, levering actions that would contribute to a more circular economy. Our proposals complement those in the EU Circular Economy Package, which highlight the greater and more powerful role that producer responsibility could play.