Applying the waste hierarchy: guidance

Guidance on applying a waste hierarchy under Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Part 3

Supporting guidance and information sources

How can my organisation prevent any of this waste? Avoiding waste saves money .

Many organisations underestimate the total cost of waste as they don’t consider costs beyond that of waste. The ‘hidden’ costs of waste, such as waste raw materials, energy and labour, can be relatively easy to avoid with the right processes and a system in place to measure and monitor the causes of waste. Identifying the true amount and cost of waste will help to establish a base-line position, against which improvements and cost savings can be measured. Typically over 1% of turnover can be saved through reduced raw material use and waste disposal costs.

Zero Waste Scotland provides a range of online tools, training and publications to help organisations develop their own waste prevention plans and save money. Visit to find out more.

Does your organisation design, manufacture or distribute goods?

Could you use less input material and/or less hazardous material in design and manufacture?

Are you using the right amount of packaging for shipping? Could you design products to last longer or be repaired more easily?

Responsible design is a holistic way of thinking about design which takes into account the environmental impact of the product, packaging or service throughout its entire existence from raw material use, through to end of life treatment.

Over 90% of raw materials used in all stages of processing and manufacture, from natural resource, through components and beyond, are not present in the final product. By considering responsible design, an organisation can ensure that this level of loss is reduced and materials are more effectively recycled.

Once the product or service has been manufactured or developed it must then be taken to market, which leads to further environmental impacts through packaging and transportation. Considering appropriate packaging, such as whether the product can be adequately protected with less material or whether packaging could be made returnable or reusable, can reduce the associated impact.

The impact of product use can also be reduced by considering whether product life can be extended by making it easy to repair and service, or designed in such a way to allow upgrading or resale to a secondary market.

Does your organisation operate a sustainable procurement policy, or consider the life cycle of goods in your procurement process?

Sustainable procurement involves purchasing products and services that cause minimal adverse environmental impacts, ensuring the environment for the supply of raw materials remains secure for current and future generations and taking into consideration human health and resource scarcity concerns. It considers the life cycle of a product from extraction to disposal. Products are assessed on price, performance and impact on the environment.

It is also important to remember that most products cannot be evaluated on a single attribute - there is a range covering the entire life cycle of the product. For example, consider the purchase of a photocopier for a small office. The product could be refurbished, with low dust, low energy and solvent- free toner, designed for disassembly and with minimal packaging. However, if it cannot print on both sides of the paper, then it is does not provide you with the opportunity to reduce a key resource use.

There is a strong link between purchasing and waste management as what you buy has an effect, ultimately, on how much waste you produce. Before you buy any product ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I really need to buy it?
  • Am I buying more than we need?
  • How good is our stock control - is more being ordered than is actually required, resulting in materials being disposed of before they are used?
  • Is it heavily over packaged?
  • Can it be reused?

As well as collecting materials for recycling it is also important to close the recycling loop by purchasing materials with a recycled content (e.g. paper and stationery products, toilet paper and refuse sacks). The use of these materials will help to stimulate the market for recycled products and support the recycling process. Before you buy any product, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it made from recycled materials?
  • Is it made from easily recycled materials such as paper, glass or wood? Are its component materials easy to separate for recycling?
  • Is its packaging easily recyclable? aim to purchase items in packaging that can be recycled easily and locally.

Organisations can use their procurement process to encourage suppliers to minimise waste generated from purchased goods and services, for example:

  • Buy durable rather than disposable items e.g. reusable water glasses, cutlery etc; Buy materials such as cleaning fluids in bulk quantities to reduce packaging;
  • Ask suppliers (including caterers) if regularly delivered goods can be provided in reusable/returnable packaging or if they can take back packaging for recycling;
  • Rationalise deliveries to reduce transport emissions associated with your activities;
  • Buy locally - supporting local businesses can reduce transport emissions and the associated environmental impact;
  • Use suppliers that take back waste equipment at the end of its life (other than WEEE) e.g. furniture and carpets;
  • Use suppliers that provide a maintenance service for equipment;
  • Hire or lease equipment rather than purchasing new, or consider sourcing second-hand items;
  • Consider whether equipment, furniture and textiles can be refurbished or repaired for further use, rather than purchasing new replacements;
  • Sell/donate/swap unwanted items e.g. textiles, furniture, electronic and electrical equipment, stationary etc. for re-use. To find a re-use organisation in your area, try searching the Zero Waste Scotland Business Recycling and Reuse directory or the CRNS members directory (;
  • Use suppliers that provide environmental data on their products or services.

Useful links:

If you are involved in the construction sector tailored guidance is available at:

If you deal with paint, you can find ideas on how to reuse your surplus at:

If you would like to see further guidance and examples for applying the waste hierarchy:

Reuse directories & initiatives:

Online recycling directories & Resource market information:

Trade & Industry Bodies:

Regulatory/Government Agencies & Advice:

General Support & Information:


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