Delivering Scotland's circular economy - route map to 2025 and beyond: consultation

Through this consultation we set out our proposals for a Route Map to 2025, our strategic plan to deliver Scotland’s zero waste and circular economy ambitions. This consultation invites views on the proposed priorities and actions to reach our waste, recycling and emissions reduction targets.

Chapter 4. Beyond 2025

Proposed principles for future targets:

1. Achieve net zero by 2045.

2. Reduce the material footprint of our resources and waste.

3. Maximise the value of our circular economy.

4. Align with the EU.

Focus of this chapter

Our current waste and recycling targets are focused on the period to 2025. The measures set out in this consultation primarily focus on the action we can take before 2025 to accelerate progress towards our existing targets. However, they also lay the foundations for the transformational change we will need to see across our whole economy and society in the years ahead.

This chapter focuses on what this transformational change should look like for Scotland's circular economy to 2030, and how the circular economy can help us on our trajectory to net zero by 2045.


We are facing an ever growing climate and nature emergency. We must set clear milestones for Scotland's journey to deliver a circular economy, reduce our emissions, and responsibly manage the waste we do produce.

Since 2010's Zero Waste Plan[144] we have had ambitious waste reduction and recycling targets in place. This has helped drive progress. We waste less, recycle more, and send less to landfill than we did a decade ago. The carbon footprint of our waste has fallen by almost three quarters since 1998.

However, much has also changed over the last decade. We have a much better understanding of the systemic environmental challenges we all face, and the speed and scale of the response that is now required to meet the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. The climate emergency has intensified the focus on emissions reduction, and how we view and treat our waste.

Our 2025 targets are important milestones, but they cannot be the end destination. Many of our existing 2025 targets are weight-based, and do not specifically measure carbon reduction or other environmental impacts. We need to revisit our current goals to make sure they are helping us on the road to net zero, while recognising the wider environmental footprint of our resources and waste.

Development of future targets

We propose to set new circular economy targets for the period to 2030. We propose to go beyond weight-based criteria and ensure that any future targets correspond to our Environment Strategy and overall vision for a circular economy, accounting for the four principles set out below.

1. Achieve net zero by 2045

The Climate Change Plan update[145] (2020) identified the need to describe how the waste and resources sector will contribute beyond 2025 towards Scotland's emissions reduction journey.

The Scottish Government and Zero Waste Scotland introduced a Carbon Metric[146] for waste in 2011, making Scotland the first country to measure the carbon impact of its waste in this way. The metric measures the whole-life carbon impacts of Scotland's waste, and is a vital tool in our work to address the climate emergency. The most recent data shows that in 2018 the carbon impacts of Scotland's waste fell to the lowest on record, 30% below 2011 baseline levels.

We propose that future targets should align with our commitment to achieve net zero by 2045, and help ensure that the waste and resources sector plays its full role in tackling the global climate emergency and limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C.

2. Reduce the material footprint of our resources and waste

The global use of natural resources has more than tripled since 1970 and continues to grow. Using resources sustainably is essential to tackling both the climate and nature crises. In Scotland, we would need to reduce our virgin material use by around 50% to achieve a sustainable international footprint.

Zero Waste Scotland's SWEFT Tool, Materials Flow Accounting (MFA) and Beyond Carbon calculator could allow us to identify the environmental impacts of our consumption across a range of key environmental indicators. The Circular Economy Bill consultation outlines proposals to develop a monitoring and indicator framework that could underpin future targets aimed at consumption reduction.

We propose that future targets should help ensure that we use and re-use resources and have a sustainable international material footprint.

3. Maximise the value of our circular economy

Scotland's transition to a net zero, circular economy is underway. More than 200,00 jobs already contribute to a circular economy and to a cleaner, more sustainable Scotland, with opportunities to grow in areas such as construction, the bioeconomy and decommissioning.[147]

International climate targets and pressures on global resources are creating large emerging markets in carbon-neutral, circular solutions. With Scotland's ambition, expertise and strong record of innovation, we are well placed to lead change, developing technologies and expertise that we can export across the world. This will continue to create business and investment opportunities and new, high quality jobs across Scotland.

We propose that future targets should seek to maximise the value of our waste, energy and resources, building a thriving, sustainable economy with opportunities across Scotland.

4. Align with the EU

We are committed to maintaining close links with the EU and to continue to meet the high European standards on the environment. We have welcomed the ambition demonstrated in the EU's circular economy action plan and the revision of the Ecodesign Directive with the Sustainable Products Initiative. We are committed to working with our partners in the EU to further develop and align with these initiatives, and wish to ensure that any future targets set in Scotland match or exceed the level of ambition we are seeing in Europe.

We propose that future targets should keep pace with those set by the EU, in order to ensure market alignment and uphold our commitment to maintain or exceed environmental standards after EU exit.

Consultation questions

Question 15. To what extent do you agree with the principles proposed to underpin future circular economy targets? Please provide evidence to support your answer if possible.



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