Scotland to open remanufacturing centre and materials brokerage service
The Scottish Government is to fund a new remanufacturing centre and a brokerage service for recyclates, it has been announced today (29 October).
The Scottish Institute of Remanufacture, which will focus on recouping the value of the materials and components that are lost through disposal and/or the recycling process, will be hosted by the University of Strathclyde and run in partnership with Heriot-Watt University.
Zero Waste Scotland, which delivers the Scottish Government’s Zero Waste Plan, has committed £300,000 to the project, while the Scottish Funding Council, which distributes funding from the Scottish Government to the country's colleges and universities, will provide £1 million to the centre. The funding will be spread over three years.
Companies based in Scotland have reportedly already pledged over £800,000 of funding, or in-kind support, for potential research projects for the institute.
The announcement was made by Scotland’s Environment Secretary, Richard Lochhead (pictured above, centre), at the Scottish Resources Conference in Glasgow this morning.
He said: “It is astounding that an estimated £50 million worth of gold will potentially be wasted in Scotland in the next five years through disposal of electronics like computers and phones. By bringing a more circular approach to the way we manage our resources, we can change that. And by channelling expertise into better remanufacturing, we can ensure that valuable components can be recovered and reused.
“The Scottish Government is serious about creating a greener, more circular economy, where our valuable products and materials remain in useful circulation for longer, creating and sustaining jobs in the process.
“The challenge is to re-design products to make it easier to take them apart and remanufacture them into new products, and harness their true value. We need Scotland’s brightest and best minds to be focused on achieving this more circular use of valuable products and materials and that is what the new Scottish Institute of Remanufacture will do.”
Professor Scott MacGregor, Vice-Principal at the University of Strathclyde, added: “The University of Strathclyde is committed to working with partners in industry and academia to advance technology to benefit the economy in Scotland and beyond.
“As home to the UK’s largest remanufacturing research group, the university is well-positioned to ensure Scotland is at the forefront of supporting remanufacturing and we are delighted to be hosting the new institute.”
Members of the remanufacturing industry have welcomed the news, with Ben Walsh, Technical Consultant at the Centre for Remanufacturing and Reuse (CRR), saying: “This is excellent news for the Scottish and wider UK economy. The Scottish Institute of Remanufacture will help develop a smarter way of doing business that will increase the international competitiveness of Scottish companies whilst minimising resource use. It is exciting to see the profile of remanufacturing increasing and I look forward to working with the institute over the coming years.”
Scottish Materials Brokerage Service
As well as the remanufacturing centre, Lochhead also announced that the government is creating a brokerage service, run by a Zero Waste Taskforce, to ‘help the public sector to get a better deal for the recycled materials collected from their communities’.
Lochhead said: "It’s clear that the fragmented approach we have at the moment to collecting materials does make things very hard for potential investors and that is a challenge for the [Zero Waste] Taskforce. For example, we believe that Scotland could support a commercial plastics reprocessing plant, recycling tens of thousand tonnes of plastic a year and create new jobs at the same time. But such a facility needs supply contracts from most of Scotland’s 32 councils to be viable. We have to make that task easier by creating a one-stop shop for delivering quality materials to the marketplace otherwise it simply won’t happen.
“So I’m pleased to say today that we are going to introduce a Scottish Materials Brokerage Service and that will enable Scottish local authorities to put contracts in place that will bring together high-quality recycled materials from collection systems across the whole of Scotland and into reliable supply chains for reprocessors.
“The new service we are going to produce is forward thinking. It will combine Zero Waste Scotland’s market intelligence with a collaborative effort of Scottish Procurement at the same time, and that service will be underway in January 2015."
He added: “High-quality recycling supports economic growth, fosters innovation, boosts employment and helps secure access to resources, which will come scarcer and scarcer. Our Materials Brokerage Service – the first of its kind in the UK – will see supply and demand for high-value recycling matched up, providing certainty of supply for investors and certainty of demand for local authorities.
“Scotland’s public sector handles almost three million tonnes of waste materials per year. We need to ensure these materials get to the right place and the brokerage service will enable the resources collected by councils to be channelled into higher-value use, while providing a good deal for the public sector and improving our recycling rates.”
Iain Gulland, Director of Zero Waste Scotland, also commented, saying: "Zero Waste Scotland is... excited about the transformative impact the materials brokerage service could have in driving high quality recycling and reprocessing in Scotland, and we are working with Scottish Procurement to make sure the service gets off to a strong start in January."
The Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) has said the Scottish Materials Exchange Brokerage is an "encouraging development" for local authorities in Scotland, but that there are concerns that the proposal might duplicate the work already undertaken by Excel Scotland on Framework Agreements.
A LARAC spokesperson said: "LARAC hopes that this initiative by the Scottish Government is sufficiently different. Anything that gives local authorities more control and negotiating power over materials has got to be a good thing. In these times of economic difficulty the more value that our members can realise from the sale of their materials then the more services can be protected and grow.
"With organisations such as Zero Waste Scotland and WRAP encouraging local authorities to maximise returns from material sales, if this brokerage takes off and works as it is intended it could provide a blueprint for other parts of the UK."
Lochhead said that he looked forward to seeing the two projects progress and hoped that they would help Scotland become an “international leader on innovative waste solutions by creating a greener, more circular economy”.
Responding to questions about potentially standardising waste and recycling collections, as has been the case in Wales (with the Collections Blueprint), Lochhead said that Scotland was “trying to encourage a more uniform approach, in terms of the change in culture, how local government can work more closely together to maximise the benefits, and scale up the commercial benefits”. He added that if this “doesn’t work”, the government would “look at other options because we simply can’t afford to loose out on benefits in terms of sustainability and also the economic benefits”.
Touching on the growing trend of reducing frequency of residual waste collections to boost recycling rates, Lochhead said: “In terms of three or four weekly [residual] collections that’s clearly up to the leadership at local authorities, they take these decisions, not central government. I’m perfectly relaxed about extending the period between collections and I think the move to fortnightly in some areas in recent years has worked perfectly well."