Scotland sets food waste target

Commissioner Karmenu Vella, Kalopsia MD Adam Robertson-Falk and Richard Lochhead at the launch of the Making Things Last strategy
Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead has today (23 February) pledged to cut food waste in Scotland by a third by 2025, as part of Scotland’s new circular economy strategy, ‘Making Things Last’.

The food waste target, which last October Lochhead promised to introduce, could save Scottish businesses and households at least £500 million a year, and ‘will put Scotland at the forefront of global action to tackle food waste’, according to Lochhead.

The national target is the first of its kind in Europe and has been set in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal of halving per capita food waste by 2030. Since 2009, household food waste in Scotland has decreased by an estimated 37,000 tonnes per year, 5.7 per cent overall, which the government estimates has saved households around £92 million a year.

A ‘variety of stakeholders’ will work to identify a package of actions to deliver the government’s planned food waste reductions, with a consultation helping to decide whether measures should be voluntary or binding.

The government will also investigate the development of a number of indicators to assess progress on the target, including carbon savings from solid and liquid waste, the reduction in tonnes of on-farm losses of edible produce and financial savings.

The announcement was made as Lochhead launched Scotland’s first circular economy strategy in Edinburgh.

Scottish circular economy strategy

Scotland sets food waste targetMaking Things Last: A Circular Economy Strategy for Scotland’ will be delivered ‘in close collaboration’ with Scotland’s enterprise agencies, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and Zero Waste Scotland.

It sets out the Scottish Government’s early priorities for action, highlighting areas where Scotland is considered to be in a position to make rapid progress and areas that are thought to hold the greatest potential for environmental and economic benefits. It therefore focuses on four areas, although action will also be taken elsewhere. These are:

  • Food, drink, and the broader bio-economy: ‘food waste is a significant source of carbon emissions; and a more circular approach to the beer, whisky and fish sectors, for example, could lead to potential savings of half a billion pounds per year’;
  • Remanufacture: ‘remanufacture is already contributing £1.1 billion per year to Scotland’s economy with potential to grow by a further £620 million by 2020’;
  • Construction: ‘construction accounts for about 50 per cent of all waste in Scotland and is a major influence on efficient use of resources’; and
  • Energy infrastructure: ‘with the recent growth in renewables and £30-35 billion of oil and gas decommissioning spend expected by 2040, the potential for added value is significant’.

The government says that to ensure that products are designed for longer lifetimes, with thought given to disassembly, repair and recycling, the enterprise agencies will make the circular economy a key focus in innovation support, while Zero Waste Scotland will be establishing a new support service to help businesses adopt circular approaches.

Last week, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that a new £70-million programme, The Circular Economy Investment Fund and Service, would be created to develop and grow the circular economy in Scotland as part of a package of measures to boost the country’s manufacturing industry.

The strategy also sets out that it wishes to ‘stimulate debate’ on a more comprehensive producer responsibility approach by creating a single framework for all product types that will drive choices for reuse, repair and remanufacture, while also addressing the costs of recycling and disposal. It also intends to focus on individual schemes for tyres, furniture and mattresses.

To go alongside work to create greater circularity within business, the government says it will work with local authorities to deliver ‘high-profile, national communications’ to drive recycling and reuse, while providing further support to community-based initiatives, such as the Zero Waste Town programme, that facilitate the circular economy.

Zero Waste Scotland and Skills Development Scotland will also explore the scope for a skills academy for the circular economy, in conjunction with Sector Skills Councils, employers, Industry Leadership Groups, and skills partnerships.

New and exciting perspective

Writing in the strategy’s foreword, Lochhead said: ‘In a world of finite resources, where global population and consumption growth are driving increased volatility and vulnerability in the supply of raw materials, the circular economy offers a new and exciting perspective.

This creates a variety of opportunities from making goods to last longer, ready to be upgraded and repaired, to reducing our need for raw materials and helping us get smarter at recycling.

‘For example, between now and 2020, we’ll import about £50 million worth of gold into Scotland hidden away in our TVs, mobile phones and computers, but we’ll recover just a tiny fraction of that.

‘From an environmental perspective, the opportunities of a more circular economy are fundamental to the Scottish Government’s approach to tackling emissions arising from the consumption of goods, to help tackle climate change. Zero Waste Scotland estimate that, by 2050, a more circular economy could reduce carbon emissions by 11 million tonnes per year.’

‘Ambitious plans’ align with European Commission

Lochhead was joined in Edinburgh today by the European Commissioner for Environment Karmenu Vella, who said: “I am delighted to hear about Scotland’s ambitious and exciting plans for a more circular economy. I was also very pleased to visit textiles enterprise Kalopsia – in the heart of a shopping centre in Scotland’s capital – which is a great example of how the concept of a circular economy can be brought directly to the public. The [European] Commission also has ambitious plans for a more circular economy, and we looking forward to working with Scotland to help ‘Make Things Last’ and turn a circular economy into a reality.”

A spokesperson for the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) said: “It’s really encouraging to see the Scottish Government’s strong commitment to tackling food waste. Achieving a 33 per cent reduction is going to be a challenge, so we all need to work collaboratively on this issue. WRAP’s work with the industry under Courtauld Commitment 2025 will have a real role in bringing everyone together to achieve this.”

Zero Waste Scotland Chief Executive Iain Gulland added: “I’m delighted that the Scottish Government has set such a ground-breaking and ambitious target for food waste. We must be bold when it comes to confronting the big issues of our generation. Today’s announcement shows that once again Scotland is prepared to lead the way internationally on such issues.

“Against a back-drop of an increasing population and changing diets, food waste is one of our biggest global challenges. Reducing it will reduce carbon emissions, save our natural resources, save us money and help boost our economy. These are the benefits for reducing all waste and developing a more circular economy according to the government’s strategy.

“It will require change in the way we do things but we already have innovators leading the way. Our role at Zero Waste Scotland will be to inspire and harness the imaginative thinking and practical action that’s needed, and we look forward to working with partners to reduce all waste and become more circular.”

The Scottish Environmental Services Association (SESA), the voice of the Scotland’s waste and resource management industry, has also welcomed the strategy. SESA’s Policy Advisor, Stephen Freeland said: "SESA welcomes the ambition contained in the Scottish Government’s Circular Economy Strategy. The industry is crying out for long-term certainty to help underpin investment as we face persistently challenging market conditions. In particular, the strategy’s proposals to improve the quality of recyclate collected from households and businesses are welcomed."
‘Making Things Last: A Circular Economy Strategy for Scotland’ can be read on the Scottish Government’s website.