Resource Use

Resource efficiency could save Scotland £2.9bn

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead and Director of Zero Waste Scotland Iain Gulland, at the Scottish Resources Conference earlier today

The Scottish Government has today (2 October) released a new blueprint for bringing about ‘a more resource efficient and circular economy’ in the hopes of saving £2.9 billion and ensuring resource security.

The ‘Safeguarding Scotland’s Resources’ action plan forms part of the Scottish Government’s ‘zero waste [to landfill]’ agenda and was brought about after it was found that around 75 per cent more raw materials would need to be extracted over the next 25 years if the country’s consumption trends continue at the current rate.

Speaking at the Scottish Resources Conference today (2 October), Environment Minister Richard Lochhead said: “If everyone in the world used the same amount of resources as an average European we would need three planets to sustain us.

“The Scottish Government is committed to creating a more productive and circular economy and reduc[ing] our dependency on raw materials. We are embarking on the next steps towards being a zero waste nation.

“‘Safeguarding Scotland’s Resources’ is an important step, but its success will depend on how businesses and individuals respond to the challenges we face and the opportunities we want to create. In launching this new programme, we want to galvanise people behind our zero waste vision and to work with us to make it a reality.”

Action plan details

‘Safeguarding Scotland’s Resources’ commits to actions that will ‘make an immediate impact in Scotland's resource consumption’ by encouraging a reduction in the amount of raw material consumed by ‘wasting less and using finite resources more efficiently’.

According to the government, this will not only benefit the environment, but could also save the country £2.9 billion through ‘straightforward resource efficiency’.

Specifically, the plan aims to cut all waste in Scotland by seven per cent by 2017 and 15 per cent by 2025.

It will do this through several ‘actions’. These include:

Business resource efficiency

  • promoting the use of existing voluntary agreements on waste reduction and resource efficiency (such as the Courtauld Commitment III and the Hospitality and Food Service Agreement), as well as extending existing agreements to encompass energy and water use and ‘actively pursuing new agreements’;
  • encouraging companies in Scotland to pledge their commitment to zero waste and resource efficiency through a new public pledge system (managed by Resource Efficient Scotland);
  • preventing construction and demolition waste (which currently makes up around 44 per cent of total waste produced in Scotland) by developing and trialling ‘Resource Management Plans’ to encompass the design stage of construction and the wider benefits of resource efficiency; and
  • supporting and promoting the use of the Environment Agency’s Electronic Duty of Care system and developing tools for businesses to ‘assess their resource use’.

Stimulating innovation and business opportunities

  • supporting reprocessing and remanufacturing through the Scottish Plastics Loan Fund, which will be extended to £3.8 million and ‘could be’ expanded to cover other materials and products such as textiles and waste electrical and electronic equipment;
  • supporting public procurement to encourage innovation and growth in refurbishment and remanufacturing through a procurement reform bill;
  • encouraging reuse supply and demand by supporting pilots of collection systems for reusable items, and supporting the Reuse Hotline to help people donate items for reuse; and
  • developing guidance on the regulatory requirements for remanufacturing activities to ensure a ‘level playing field and support innovation’ in the remanufacturing sector.

Sustainable product design

  • looking at further and higher education provision on sustainable design; and
  • promoting the case for sustainable design in EU legislation and policies, such as the EcoDesign Directive and the Eco-innovation Action Plan.

Producer responsibility and packaging

  • engaging with industry about how the existing UK-wide producer responsibility scheme for packaging might be ‘cost-effectively improved to better support recycling in Scotland’;
  • looking at the potential of introducing producer responsibility measures for other ‘key products considering the social, environmental and economic evidence for such actions’; and
  • evaluating Scotland’s deposit-return ‘Recycle and Reward’ pilots and examining the feasibility of a national deposit-return scheme to reduce litter.

Understanding the movement of materials in the economy

  • tracking the movement of materials to ‘help industry and businesses adapt early to any potential constraints and opportunities’.

Creating a culture of resource efficiency

  • targeting communications to encourage behaviours on waste prevention, reuse and recycling;
  • encouraging learning in resource efficiency;
  • working with the Ellen MacArthur Foundationto support professional learning programmes and ‘ensure that practitioners have the skills, knowledge and confidence to develop effective learning and teaching approaches in relation to the circular economy’;
  • mandating that retailers charge for carrier bags from October 2014 to reduce the number of bags used in Scotland – promoting reuse and reducing litter.

Speaking of the plan, Iain Gulland, Director of Zero Waste Scotland, said: “Our Resource Efficient Scotland programme is already helping thousands of Scottish firms use energy, water and raw materials more efficiently, so they can save money whilst also encouraging new and innovative technologies and business models to take hold.

“We welcome the focus on practical action to benefit the economy which is at the heart of the ‘Safeguarding Scotland’s Resources’ plan.”

Read the ‘Safeguarding Scotland’s Resources’ action plan.

Carbon impact of waste

Alongside releasing ‘Safeguarding Scotland’s Resources’, ZeroWaste Scotland has today published an update to its Carbon Metric, which measures the environmental impact of waste.

The updated metric now covers the total impact of all waste, including carbon emissions from producing and recycling as well as from its disposal. According to the measure, the carbon impact of Scotland’s waste in 2011 was 14 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent – equal to two million around-the-world flights.

This 2011 baseline will be used to measure progress on the Scottish Government’s new ‘Safeguarding Scotland’s Resources’ action plan, which hopes to reduce the carbon impact of waste by 22 per cent by 2025.

The metric is accompanied by an online tool that can be used by businesses, local authorities and other organisations to understand the impacts associated with their waste and how they can be reduced, as well as helping to quantify the progress they are making.

Gulland said: “The new carbon metric is a unique approach, which takes into account the emissions associated with the full lifecycle of products and materials and clearly shows the benefits of reducing our use of primary raw materials.

“It’s an important tool for us nationally and for individual organisations to understand their impact and measure progress as we head towards zero waste.  It also reinforces the main message of the new ‘Safeguarding Scotland’s Resources’ plan – that reducing resource use and preventing waste deliver the biggest environmental benefits.”

Find out more about the Carbon Metric.