Zero waste plan for Scotland: what does it mean for me?

Zero waste plan for Scotland: what does it mean for me?

Zero Waste Plan for Scotland

Scotland's Zero Waste Plan sets out the Scottish Government's vision for a zero waste society, one where all types of waste are dealt with, regardless of where they came from. Everyone has their part to play in this vision and the plan outlines steps and policies which will be introduced to make sure Scotland benefits from the economic and environmental advantages to be gained from zero waste.

Scotland has made great improvements on waste in the last few years by increasing recycling rates and reducing the amount of waste we send to landfill. However, there is still a lot more to do.

This vision describes a Scotland where resource use is minimised, valuable resources are not disposed of in landfills, and most waste is sorted, leaving only limited amounts to be treated.

Achieving zero waste will make a positive contribution to Scotland's climate change and renewable energy targets as more waste is prevented, less waste is sent to landfill, and more resources are reused, recycled and recovered.

The Zero Waste Plan sets a long term vision, and will require a significant change in the way we approach the management of our waste, however and wherever it arises. Zero Waste Scotland is the organisation created to support delivery of the Zero Waste Plan.

In 2008 we produced 19.5 million tonnes of waste in Scotland. That's enough to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool every ten minutes.

Waste Prevention and Reuse

Adopting a zero waste approach means changing the way we look at waste so that we see it as a resource, not a problem. Waste prevention provides the greatest environmental and economic opportunities for Scotland.

The principle of the waste hierarchy is central to the zero waste vision. It ranks the different ways in which we can deal with our waste in terms of sustainability. The hierarchy identifies the prevention of waste as the highest priority, followed by reuse, recycling, recovery of other value (e.g. energy), with disposal as the least desirable option.

How will this be achieved?

  • A waste prevention programme will be developed for all waste to ensure that prevention and reuse of resources is at the centre of all waste policy in Scotland.
  • Improved information on different waste sources and types will highlight further opportunities.
  • The Scottish Government will introduce landfill bans for certain materials to encourage their prevention and reuse.

For more information on Scotland's Zero Waste Plan visit:

Waste is a resource not a problem

Recycling and Composting

A zero waste society will be one where there are high levels of recycling and composting. The Scottish Government has set a target of 70% recycling and composting for all waste by 2025, whether it comes from a business or a household. This means action will be taken to increase the quantity, and quality, of resources which are recycled and composted.

How will this be achieved?

  • Best practice commitments for local authorities and the waste management industry will be developed to meet the expectation of householders and businesses and increase recycling rates.
  • More separate collection of wastes, like food, to reduce contamination and increase the value of the resource.
  • Measure the carbon impacts of waste to prioritise the recycling of resources which offer greater environmental and climate change outcomes.
  • Support the development of facilities required to recycle and recover the economic and environmental value from our waste.
  • The public and business sector and householders will be encouraged to use and buy products made from recycled materials.
  • The Scottish Government will support the development of plastics reprocessing facilities in Scotland, so that a greater range of plastics can be recycled and used in the products we then buy.
  • Some types of waste will be banned from landfill sites.

Target of 70% recycling of all Scotland's waste by 2025

Energy Recovery and Landfill

For Scotland to gain the environmental and economic advantages of zero waste we cannot continue to send resources which have value to landfill. For example food waste can be collected separately from households and businesses and treated using a biological process, such as anaerobic digestion, to produce energy. This can then be used to heat and power homes and buildings, and also produce a sustainable fertiliser for farms.

How will this be achieved?

  • The Scottish Government will introduce landfill bans for certain wastes to increase reuse, recycling and recovery and ensure the value of these resources is not lost.
  • Regulations will be established to support separate collection of some resources to encourage reuse, recycling, recovery and diversion from landfill. Recovering energy from Scotland's food waste could power a city the size of Dundee as well as producing heat and a sustainable fertiliser
  • Introduce regulations to ensure that waste technologies recover the maximum energy from materials, and that only waste which cannot be reused or recycled is sent to these facilities.

For more information on Scotland's Zero Waste Plan visit:

Education and Awareness

A zero waste Scotland will depend on everyone playing their part, 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 at home, work and at leisure.

Individuals, schools, universities, colleges 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, buy and how they use them. Scottish households throw out a staggering 570,000 tonnes of food a year, more than two-thirds of which could have been avoided.

How will this be achieved?

  • Local and national education and awareness campaigns to help us all prevent unnecessary resource use and increase the amount we all reuse, recycle and recover.
  • 'Recycling on the go' will be increased to encourage people to recycle while away from home.
  • Zero Waste Scotland will work on developing incentive schemes to improve recycling rates and reduce waste.
  • Increased awareness and understanding of the need for new waste facilities to collect, sort, recycle, compost and recover energy from waste as well as increased awareness of the need to manage waste locally.

Economic Opportunities

A zero waste Scotland has many benefits. New waste facilities mean new investment and jobs. As businesses become more resource efficient, costs are reduced and a competitive advantage is gained. A stronger market for recycled material is promoted through separate collections, both householders and businesses will be encouraged to buy and use products with high recycled content.

How will this be achieved?

  • Regulations to support separate collections and treatment of resources to provide opportunities for businesses to invest in reuse, recycling and recovery.
  • Investigation into 'take back' schemes and other obligations on the producers of certain types of waste.
  • Collect and recycle more plastics by developing facilities in Scotland. 2,000 jobs could be generated from the Zero Waste Plan
  • Encourage the public and private sector to buy products made from recycled waste.

For more information on Scotland's Zero Waste Plan visit:

Scottish Government has a key role to play in setting the vision of zero waste and leading the changes required to implement the plan whether by introducing policy or other regulatory measures.

95% of Scots recycle at least one material and only 3% think it is a waste of time

Zero Waste Scotland works with businesses, communities, individuals and local authorities to help them reduce waste, recycle more and use resources sustainably.

Find out more at

You can also view the full Zero Waste Plan at:


Email: Central Enquiries Unit

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