Scotland's Zero Waste Plan

Scotland's Zero Waste Plan


Target of 70% recycling and maximum 5% to landfill by 2025 for all Scotland's waste

Scotland has already embarked on the journey towards a more sustainable approach to waste and resources. Recycling rates continue to rise, volumes of waste being sent to landfill are declining, and as a society we are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of our activities.

This Zero Waste Plan builds on those past achievements and ongoing progress. It sets the strategic direction for waste policy for Scotland, informed by improved understanding of the environmental consequences of how we use and dispose of resources, and by the requirements of European legislation. The Zero Waste Plan is underpinned by a determination to achieve the best overall outcomes for Scotland's environment, by making best practical use of the approach in the waste management hierarchy: waste prevention, reuse, recycling and recovery.

Landfill bans for specific waste types

This Plan has been shaped by the Scottish Government's public consultation in 2009 on proposals for a Zero Waste Plan. The responses to this consultation - from individuals to local authorities, businesses to campaigning organisations - highlighted a very wide variety and depth of concern and interest about Scotland's waste. On some issues views were widely divided, on others they were almost unanimous. Crucially though, almost every response endorsed strongly the vision of a zero waste Scotland, even if there were differing views about the best means of achieving it.

The consultation exercise clarified the issues and areas where effort should be focussed to achieve the greatest impact. The range of responses also made it clear that there is a need for strong leadership from Scottish Government to set a direction for the future. In turn, local authorities, businesses, and public sector organisations will have key roles in providing leadership in their areas of influence. This Zero Waste Plan gives that lead, setting a long-term vision of how everyone in Scotland can help change our approach and attitude to waste.

Source segregation and separate collection of specific waste types

This Zero Waste Plan is deliberately concise and strategic in its approach. It looks to set the goals Scotland needs to achieve in the future, and focuses on the key areas of activity with the potential to make the greatest contribution to deliver those goals. At the heart of the Zero Waste Plan is a change of mindset, a need for every one of us to start viewing waste as a potential resource, and to think about how to use that resource most efficiently. Many businesses and individuals across Scotland are already making this shift and we all need to follow their lead.

Scotland produces large quantities of waste - almost 20 million tonnes in 2008. This comes from a range of sources, with household waste accounting for 2.9 million tonnes, compared with 8.6 million tonnes from the construction industry, and 7.9 million tonnes from the rest of the commercial and industrial sector. A large proportion of this material which is treated as waste can be seen instead as a resource that still has a value, which can be captured and used in place of costly new resources. By using resources more efficiently and preventing unnecessary waste, businesses and industries in Scotland can reduce their costs and gain a competitive advantage.

Alongside the economic case, there are also compelling environmental reasons for reducing Scotland's demand on new primary resources. The extraction, processing, use and disposal of all materials produces environmental impacts, and contributes directly to climate change through the energy used. Waste disposal also has major climate impacts, particularly the emission of the greenhouse gas methane from landfill sites. A zero waste Scotland will play an important role in helping to achieve the targets set in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 to reduce Scotland's greenhouse gas emissions. The Zero Waste Plan will also progress some of the key measures and provisions set out in the Scottish Government's Climate Change Delivery Plan (2009) and the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, and build on the progress that has already been achieved in reducing the climate impacts of waste management in Scotland.

Restrictions on inputs to energy from waste facilities

The Zero Waste Plan emphasises the importance of separating different materials in the waste stream, to simplify the process of recovering their value. For example, anaerobic digestion of food waste can produce renewable energy, and fertilisers for use in agriculture.

Over 2 million tonnes of food waste is produced every year from all sectors in Scotland. If just half of this food waste was captured and treated through anaerobic digestion, the electricity generated could power a city the size of Dundee for six months, provide heat for local homes and businesses, and produce enough fertiliser for ten percent of Scotland's arable crop needs. This is just one example of how the move to a zero waste society will create real environmental benefits, new economic opportunities and contribute to the creation of green jobs in the Scottish economy.

Managing resources for the best environmental outcomes entails major policy and investment decisions by local authorities and businesses about the treatment capacity and infrastructure that will be needed. The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 will require local authorities to carry out their functions in the most sustainable way that supports delivery of climate change targets. Scotland can learn too from the experience of other countries. Some countries have invested in processes that treat mixed wastes, although this approach can make it difficult to increase recycling levels as the systems are designed around mixed rather than separated waste streams. It is important that our policies and decisions and the supporting regulatory framework drive investment in the most sustainable solutions for Scotland for the longer term.

The Scottish Government recognises that these decisions depend on confidence and stability about future policy directions. This Zero Waste Plan aims to provide clarity about the way forward for waste and resource management in Scotland, and a firm basis for decisions and plans for the future. It sets a course towards a Scotland where resources are used efficiently, resources that are used unnecessarily or thrown away are reduced to a minimum, and we all enjoy the environmental, social and economic benefits this will deliver - a genuinely zero waste Scotland.

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