Scotland's Zero Waste Plan

Scotland's Zero Waste Plan

Areas for Action

The Zero Waste Plan is a plan for all Scotland's waste, not just the waste collected and managed by local authorities, which is largely household waste. It sets a long term vision, and will require a significant change in the way Scotland approaches the management of its waste, however and wherever it arises. To achieve this vision, action needs to be taken across the following four areas: resource streams, economic opportunity, resource management sector, and education and awareness.

Scottish households currently recycle enough each year to fill bin lorries from Gretna Green to John O'Groats and back again!

Resource Streams

Strategic Directions

  • Encourage waste prevention as a top priority across all resource streams, to reduce Scotland's overall resource use, reduce climate impacts, and increase resource efficiency.
  • Take action to increase the quantity and quality of resources recycled, with the aim of achieving high levels of "closed loop" resource management.
  • Develop clear and coordinated sector-specific programmes of work focusing on resource efficiency, infrastructure needs and the use of recyclate.
  • Introduce policy levers that systematically drive the transition to a zero waste society across all resource streams.
  • Continue to improve data on resource use and measurement from both business and the public sector, to steer government policy and raise business awareness of resource use.
  • Introduce a new metric for waste that better captures the environmental impact of resource use. This will be used to drive Scotland's prevention, reuse and recycling objectives.

Adopting a zero waste approach means transforming the way we look at waste so that we see it as a valuable resource to be managed, not a problem to be dealt with. Resources flow through the economy from their initial extraction, through processing, into manufactured goods. This process is both energy and carbon intensive. At the end of their life some resources can be recycled, but at present many end up being discarded to landfill, or "down-cycled", where the value of those resources is either greatly reduced or permanently lost - for example, by using glass from bottles to replace aggregate in drainage works. Zero waste policy moves away from this linear management of resources to "closed loop" resource management which captures, reuses and recovers resources in line with the approach of the waste hierarchy - for example recycling glass bottles back into glass bottles.

Generating electricity from Scotland's food waste could power a city the size of Dundee for 6 months

To achieve this goal of maximising efficient use of resources we need to improve our understanding of how, when and where resources are being used, and which resources are appropriate for reuse, recycling or recovery. This requires better information on the full range of resources currently being treated as waste in order to identify the actions and policies necessary to improve the quality of the resource streams captured. This will reduce the demand on primary resources, and create new business opportunities in areas such as resource efficiency, sustainable design, collection and reprocessing of recovered resources. In this way, the environmental, social and economic health of Scotland will all benefit.


1 The Scottish Government will develop a Waste Prevention Programme for all waste, in line with the EU Waste Framework Directive, in order to place prevention at the heart of zero waste policy and action.

2 The Scottish Government will introduce a long term target of 70% recycling for all waste arising in Scotland by 2025, regardless of its source, based on improved data and supported by sector-specific programmes of work. Annex A sets out the range of targets which will be used to measure progress towards delivery of the Zero Waste Plan.

3 The Scottish Government will use powers under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 to introduce regulatory reporting to improve data on resource use by the business sector by October 2010. Annex A provides further information.

4 The Scottish Government will introduce progressive bans on the types of materials that may be disposed of in landfill, and associated support measures, to ensure that no resources with a value for reuse or recycling are sent to landfill by 2020. Annex C provides further information.

5 The Scottish Government will introduce a carbon metric for waste, to identify and prioritise the materials with the highest environmental benefit for recycling, leading to better environmental outcomes, and a more efficient economy. This metric will complement the existing tonnage metric. Annex A provides further information.

6 Zero Waste Scotland will identify key waste streams and sectors, and establish sector-specific programmes of work to deliver the Zero Waste Plan. This will build on previous successes such as those achieved through voluntary agreements, including the Courtauld commitment by the retail sector to cut its waste, and the commitment by the construction industry to halve waste sent to landfill.

Economic Opportunity

Strategic directions

  • Support the development of sustainable and high value markets for recyclate, with the aim of extracting highest value from resource flows.
  • The Scottish Government will support the development of infrastructure and resource streams that will underpin markets for high quality recyclate.
  • Encourage business, the public sector and householders to reuse or refurbish materials, or use recyclate or products containing recycled content to generate market supply.
  • Provide market confidence to enable businesses to invest in innovative resource management infrastructure.
  • Recover and utilise the electricity and/or heat from resources which cannot be reused or recycled for greater environmental or economic benefit, in line with Scotland's renewable energy goals.

The zero waste approach of preventing unnecessary resource use and using resources as efficiently as possible has obvious benefits for the environment, conserving finite natural resources. It will also bring clear opportunities for the economy of Scotland. By using resources more sustainably and minimising their waste, Scotland's businesses can reduce their costs and operate more efficiently and cost effectively. There are additional economic opportunities for business through adding value to the resources they recover by turning them into new high quality products, and by developing and marketing the technologies for these processes. This will contribute to sustainable economic growth and enhance the competitiveness of the Scottish economy, particularly as resources become more expensive in the future.

To support these economic opportunities, the Scottish Government must ensure that businesses and householders can access the support they need to maximise their resource efficiency. We also need to promote the long-term policy stability necessary for businesses and others to invest in resource management technologies and treatment processes.

Achieving Zero Waste could generate over 2,000 jobs in Scotland

In order to recover the maximum value from resources that are used, the resource management system - acquiring, utilisation and eventual treatment or disposal - needs to be considered and monitored as a whole, rather than as separate elements. Collection and sorting systems should be designed to promote high quality recyclate, and avoid reducing its value through contamination between different materials in the waste stream. Although this approach may appear more expensive initially, cost effective solutions at the collection and recycling phases will significantly increase the value of the resources recovered, and reduce the need for costly waste treatment infrastructure. An element of flexibility in the implementation will be applied to recognise public sector infrastructure investment cycles.


7 The Scottish Environment Protection Agency in partnership with the Scottish Government will develop further and implement the Better Waste Regulation Action Programme to support delivery of the Zero Waste Plan, including the development of a "waste to resource" tool kit for resource managers. This will introduce minimum standards for recycled materials, which will be periodically reviewed in order to progressively improve the quality of recyclate. This work will directly inform the development of new and existing resource recovery infrastructure.

8 To support the introduction of landfill bans, the Scottish Government will introduce regulations to drive separate collection and treatment of a range of resources in order to maximise their reuse and recycling value, and generate market supply. The initial focus will be on separate collection of food waste, in order to recover its material and energy value and avoid contamination of other waste materials. See Annex C for further Information.

9 Zero Waste Scotland will develop and promote a sustainable procurement toolkit, for use by both public and private sector, to encourage the purchase of products containing recycled content and minimise overall resource use. This will support the delivery of the Scottish Sustainable Procurement Action Plan published in October 2009.

10 The Scottish Government, with the enterprise agencies, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Funding Council, Sustainable Development Commission Scotland and other public bodies, will implement the forthcoming Low Carbon Economic Strategy. This will include a strategy for the development of the Environmental and Clean Technologies sector. In particular, the Scottish Government will encourage and support investment in innovative resource management technologies and will support the utilisation of renewable energy generated from resource management facilities, thereby contributing to Scotland's renewable energy targets.

11 The Scottish Government, through Zero Waste Scotland, will continue to support the development of collection and reprocessing capacity for plastics, and review what further specific support may be required to develop collection and reprocessing capacity for other materials.

12 The Scottish Government will commission a study during 2010 into the implementation of existing producer responsibility directives and initiatives in Scotland (including plastic bags, electronic equipment, batteries, and packaging), to determine how revisions could be made to drive waste prevention and recyclate markets in Scotland. The study will also look at options for extended producer responsibility and "take-back" schemes in Scotland.

Resource Management Sector

Strategic Directions

  • Encourage business investment in resource management and treatment by providing regulatory certainty and clear signals that investment in the future is of strategic interest.
  • The land-use planning system will support the delivery of a zero waste Scotland.
  • Scotland will have a waste regulation framework that supports resource management infrastructure and processes that protect the environment and deliver zero waste policies.
  • Drive innovation by defining the outcomes of a zero waste Scotland, without being prescriptive about the means.
  • Improve skill levels and health and safety in the resource management sector.

A key element of the change to a zero waste approach is the development of the resource management sector in Scotland. This sector includes the waste management industry whose role is increasingly shifting away from disposal of waste, and towards recovery of resources. However, the resource management sector is broader than the waste management industry, and includes all individuals, businesses and organisations involved in the reuse, recycling and recovery of resources - such as businesses that manufacture new products from recovered materials, and the community sector that refurbishes products. There are emerging business opportunities for the development of new technologies and processes and the Scottish Government will develop policies to ensure a stable environment to encourage investment and develop skills and innovation in the resource management sector in Scotland.

Energy from waste in Scotland could generate enough heat for 110,000 homes and power for 170,000 homes.

The priority of this Zero Waste Plan is to treat resources as high up the waste hierarchy as possible by preventing, reusing or recycling resources wherever feasible. Energy from waste has an important role to play and could contribute to 31% of Scotland's renewable heat target and 4.3% of our renewable electricity target. For energy from waste to be truly sustainable it should only be used for resource streams which cannot practicably offer greater environmental and economic benefits through reuse or recycling. The Scottish Government will develop a new regulatory approach to energy from waste, based on categories of resources which may be treated in this way. This new approach will apply to all resource streams, not just municipal waste.


13 Zero Waste Scotland will develop a programme to support continual improvements in health and safety and workforce skills in the resource management sector.

14 The Scottish Government will introduce regulatory measures to support the delivery of landfill bans, by ensuring energy from waste treatment is only used to recover value from resources that cannot offer greater environmental and economic benefits through reuse or recycling. These measures will supersede the current 25% cap which currently applies only to municipal waste, and are likely to result in similar amounts of resources being available for energy from waste treatment. See Annex C for further information.

15 The Scottish Government, with local planning authorities and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, will ensure the land use planning system supports the Zero Waste Plan through the consolidated Scottish Planning Policy ( SPP), the revision of waste planning guidance (Planning Advice Note 63) in 2010 and the provision of local waste infrastructure mapping and data. Further information available in Annex B.

16 Zero Waste Scotland, will develop good practice commitments for resource management collection and services provided to householders and small businesses. The aim will be to encourage the resource management sector to sign up to these commitments so that users have consistent expectations of services, leading to increased public and business participation and cooperation.

17 Scottish Futures Trust will provide a service that will enable Local Authorities to achieve value for money in the procurement of resource management infrastructure that supports delivery of the Zero Waste Plan.

Education and Awareness

Strategic directions

70% recycling and maximum 5% to landfill for ALL waste in Scotland

  • Deliver clear and targeted education and awareness programmes to meet the needs of the public, communities, businesses, local authorities, and the resource management industry.
  • Local and national awareness campaigns are well targeted and build on common and consistent messages to encourage participation in prevention, reuse, recycling at home, work and public spaces.
  • Develop the role of measures to influence waste behaviours, including incentives, to encourage households and businesses to take responsibility for minimising their own waste and using resources effectively.
  • Accurate, informed and consistent understanding, at a local and national level, of the important role new waste infrastructure investment plays in delivering a zero waste Scotland.
  • Encourage understanding of the value of resources within the education system.

A zero waste Scotland will depend on everyone playing their part by recognising and taking responsibility for their own use of resources. To support that, everyone in Scotland needs information about how to reduce, reuse and recycle, and how they can participate in their own lives. Individuals, schools, further education establishments and businesses need to understand how their behaviour can prevent waste, maximise resource efficiency and recover value at every step, from the products they design, produce and buy, how they use them, and how to recover their value at the end of their life.


18 Zero Waste Scotland will develop and implement, in cooperation with local authorities, a consistent, targeted, coordinated and phased education and awareness programme to encourage participation of the public and businesses at national and local levels to meet zero waste objectives.

19 Zero Waste Scotland, in cooperation with local authorities, will review the success of measures to influence waste behaviours, including incentives, and from the results of the review, encourage the development of schemes to drive reductions in waste and improvements in recycling performance.

20 Zero Waste Scotland will encourage increased "recycling on the go" opportunities to stimulate public behaviour change, including the provision of guidance during 2010 to local authorities and other providers of waste facilities.

21 The Scottish Government, with local authorities, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency ( SEPA) and Zero Waste Scotland, will seek to raise awareness of the need to take local responsibility for waste, to support development of local infrastructure for resource management. Support will also include the development of a tool, based on SEPA data, to assist local authorities in identifying the infrastructure needed to collect, sort, recycle and recover all waste in Scotland.

22 Zero Waste Scotland, with partners, will assess existing support and resources on waste management for education providers and develop appropriate support and resources to integrate zero waste objectives into teaching and learning from early years to tertiary education in the context of Curriculum for Excellence and sustainable development education.

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