Scottish Government updates its circular economy ambitions with new Route Map

The latest consultation outlines a proposed roadmap to 2030 for modernising recycling processes, decarbonising waste disposal and strengthening the circular economy. 

Stakeholders have been invited to comment on the new Circular Economy and Waste Route Map to 2030, seeking to refine and implement strategies that will fundamentally shift Scotland's approach to waste management and resource use.

After an initial consultation in 2022, the new Route Map outlines a comprehensive strategy to deliver national reuse and recycling targets, setting out actions to be taken up to 2030 to implement Scotland's shift towards a circular economy.

Lorna SlaterThe Route Map prioritises several key areas: reducing food waste from both households and businesses; enhancing recycling efforts in household and commercial sectors; establishing new circular economy targets starting from 2025 and extending at least until 2030; minimising the environmental impact of waste that cannot be reused or recycled; and promoting responsible production and consumption practices. This includes a focus on reducing the use of single-use items and encouraging the reuse of products.

The actions outlined in the Route Map are designed to align with and support the provisions in the draft Circular Economy Bill, which is currently progressing through Parliament. Among these provisions are proposals to establish local recycling targets, ensuring a localised and effective approach to waste management and recycling across Scotland.

Introducing the proposals, Lorna Slater MSP, Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, said: “To cut our emissions significantly and make real progress, we must deliver a fundamental shift across society to reduce the demand for raw material in products, encourage reuse and repairs through responsible production and consumption, recycle waste and recover energy to maximise the value of any unavoidable waste that is generated.”

The Route Map is structured around four strategic action areas: Reduce and Reuse, Modernise Recycling, Decarbonise Disposal, and Strengthen the Circular Economy.

Commenting on the evolution of the plans following the previous consultation, Slater added: “This updated draft Route Map reflects the feedback, and is intended to lay the foundations for the system-wide transformation we need to deliver through to 2030.

“It sets out the priority actions that will unlock progress across the waste hierarchy; and outlines how we will deliver and coordinate these actions to achieve maximum positive impact for communities and businesses in Scotland. These priorities are founded upon clear evidence, underpinned by a programme of research and analysis.”

Reduce and Reuse

The Route Map includes a significant focus on reducing and reusing materials, with a Product Stewardship Plan identified as a priority action to be scheduled for development and publication by 2025-26. This plan aims to augment existing progress with Extended Producer Responsibility to address the environmental impacts of specific products, such as mattresses, textiles and tyres.

Further actions intended to reinforce this priority. These include the introduction of environmental charges for problematic products by 2025/26, a charge for single-use disposable cups by 2025, ongoing consultation on the environmental impacts of single-use vapes, reviewing the feasibility of setting reuse targets from 2025, developing restrictions on the destruction of unsold consumer goods from 2024, and ongoing measures to improve the reuse experience for consumers.

The Route Map also includes a focus on behaviour change-based approaches aimed at sustainable consumption and expanding business models that prolong product lifespan.

Modernise Recycling

The proposals for consultation span both household and commercial recycling. Emphasising its collaborative approach, the Government proposes to facilitate a co-design process for high-quality, high-performing household recycling and reuse services, scheduled to take place for 2024/25 and 2025/26, with particular emphasis placed on tackling food waste.

This process is aimed at developing more efficient and accessible recycling systems for households. Further actions include developing a statutory code of practice for household waste services by 2025/26, notably introducing statutory recycling and reuse local performance targets for household waste services from 2030 citing the role this step played in enabling progress in Wales.

Alongside this the Route Map states an objective to strengthen the householder’s duty of care in relation to waste by 2025/26, providing local authorities with more tools to support household recycling and reduce contamination by 2025/26. Other actions include undertaking a review of waste and recycling service charging by 2024/25, and reviewing the monitoring and reporting framework for local authority waste services by 2025/26. Additionally, there is a plan to develop options and consult on the introduction of end destination public reporting of household recycling collected by 2027/28.

For commercial recycling, the priority actions include a review of compliance with commercial recycling requirements in 2025 and co-designing measures to improve commercial waste service provisions in 2026/27. Complementary actions to these priorities involve conducting a national compositional study of waste from commercial premises by 2025/26 and investigating further steps to promote business-to-business reuse platforms by 2027. Significantly, the Government has stated while there are potential benefits with commercial zoning for waste services, it is no longer seeking to pursue a mandatory approach to this, inviting stakeholders to instead consider voluntary approaches that might increase recycling.

Decarbonise Disposal

Reflecting previous work conducted by Zero Waste Scotland on the carbon emissions associated with waste disposal, particular focus is given to reducing the climate change impacts of residual treatment.

The government proposes the development and delivery of a Residual Waste Plan to 2045, set to be developed by 2025/26. This plan aims to improve understanding and data of the impacts associated, determining the efficacy of existing infrastructure as well as future requirements. This priority action area also sets out an intention to determine whether residual waste needs sorting for different disposal technologies, as well as exploring emerging technologies to play a role.

Complementing these initiatives, further actions include supporting the inclusion of energy from waste in the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) from 2028, reviewing and targeting materials currently landfilled from 2024, co-producing guidelines for effective community engagement from 2024, and increasing the capture of landfill gas by 2025/26.

Strengthening the Circular Economy

The Route Map outlines the development of a new Circular Economy strategy every five years, starting from 2025. This regular updating of the strategy is intended to ensure that Scotland's approach to the circular economy remains dynamic and responsive to emerging challenges and opportunities.

Setting new circular economy targets, to be determined from 2025, is another key priority. These targets will guide Scotland’s efforts in reducing waste, enhancing resource efficiency, and promoting sustainable product design.

Supporting actions include reviewing and refreshing Scotland’s Waste Data Strategy’s action plan, maintaining a program of research on waste prevention and related areas, developing public procurement opportunities to reduce environmental impact, and supporting the uptake of green skills, training, and development opportunities. These actions collectively aim to build a robust framework for a circular economy, encompassing data management, policy development, and skill enhancement.

In launching this latest consultation, the Scottish Government highlights the collaborative partnership with industry stakeholders in shaping the final plan. Commenting further on the Route Map, Lorna Slater said: “It recognises that achieving our resources, circular economy and emissions reduction objectives must be a shared endeavour, delivered through a Team Scotland approach, putting collaboration and co-design at its heart. This document is built upon extensive collaboration and engagement with the public, private and third sectors over the past two years.”

The consultation is available on the Scottish Government website and runs to 15 March. 

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