Scotland Closer to Zero Waste

By Vibecke Gudmundsen

Scotland is getting closer to achieving the targets of increased levels of recycling and reduction of waste by 2010, as outlined in the National Waste Plan towards a zero waste Scotland.

The targets include stopping the growth of municipal waste and achieve 40% recycling and composting of the municipal waste by 2010. Anna Beswick, Assistant Campaign Manager at Waste Aware Scotland, said the government and Scotland are on schedule.

“We are doing very well. We had a target in 2008 to recycle 30% which we met in the fourth quarter last year, and the total rate for that year was 31,7%. This year the recycling rate was 36,3% by February, so we are already close to achieving the target on 40% by 2010”, she said.

Multi-sectional effort

The government’s additional key targets as outlined in the National Waste Plan are to achieve 50% recycling and composting of municipal waste by 2013; 60% by 2020 and 70% by 2025. Also, to reduce emission of greenhouse gasses no more than 25% of the waste should be treated by energy, and no more than 5% should be landfill by 2025. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) insists that this achievement demands a multi-sectional effort.

“Numerous stakeholders have a role to play in preventing waste including local authorities, product designers, retailers, manufacturers, community groups and consumers.  The Scottish Government also has a duty in setting appropriate policies to ensure waste prevention is easy to undertake”, a spokesperson for SEPA said.

Reduction on waste going to landfills
Reduction on waste going to landfills

The Scottish Government are at the moment reviewing the National Waste Plan, which will outline how Scotland will meet the 70% target by 2025. The plan will be complete in 18 months time, according to Waste Aware Scotland.

“The government is fully committed to increasing recycling in Scotland and working towards a zero waste”, Ms. Beswick said.

The proposal to move Scotland towards zero waste, meaning no waste at all, was set out by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in January last year.  Scotland produced nearly 3,5 million tonnes municipal waste in 2007, whereof 2,2 million tonnes were sent to landfill and 74 000 tonnes were incinerated.

Waste hierarchy

Waste Aware Scotland explains that recycling is a part of a waste management strategy which includes measures to prevent waste in the first place. The two other stages in a waste hierarchy include reducing and reusing.

“There is a wide variety of what people can do every day, like composting at home, donating or repairing furniture or bicycles for re-use, or preventing food waste by buying fruit and vegetables loose without packaging. Every Scottish household spends £410 every year on food that does not get eaten”, Ms. Beswick said.

“There are steps that people can do to reduce the amount of unwanted mail they receive, and things like using charity shops and donating is as important as recycling. “

“You must try to think outside of the box and recycle more unusual things like mobile phones, musical instruments or luggage, or use wind-up watches or solar power products.“

The National Waste Plan was launched in 2003 by the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) as a keystone to implement the National Waste Strategy. The latter was published by SEPA in 1999 in response to environmental concerns.

Although the amount of waste going to landfill has more than halved its 16 million tonne figure since 1994, there is still a risk of increased greenhouse emissions. Sending waste to landfills means losing valuable resources, but it also contributes to a climate change seeing that landfill sites release methane gas. In addition, badly managed landfill can pollute surface and ground water and cause problems with odour, flies and vermin.