Scottish recycling rate at 41.2 per cent

Figures released today (28 October) by statisticians at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), have revealed that the country remains some distance from meeting its self imposed Zero Waste Planmunicipal recycling target of recycling half of its waste by 2013.

According to figures from the Official Statistics Publication for Scotland - Household waste - January to December 2012, of the 2.5 million tonnes of household waste collected, local authorities recycled or composted 41.2 per cent, an increase of just 1.1 per cent on the preceding year.

These figures marginally surpass the 40 per cent target for domestic waste recycling set in 2010, but remain some way from the 2013 target of 50 per cent. The slow increase in recycling mirrors a similar trend in England; figures released by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in August, showed that recycling in 2012 rose by just 0.6 per cent on 2011 levels.

Of all the UK states, just Wales has broken the 50 per cent recycling barrier, with latest figures showing that between April 2013 and March 2013, local authorities in Wales reused or recycled 52 per cent of their waste.

Recycling figures breakdown

Overall, the total volume of Scotland’s municipal waste was reduced by 105,826 tonnes from the 2011 total of 2.6 million tonnes.

Of Scotland’s 32 municipal authorities, nine have already reach the 2013 target of recycling half of their waste. The highest recycling rate belonged to one of the least wasteful regions; Clackmannanshire recycled 58 per cent of its 27,737 tonnes of household waste. Other local authorities that broke the 50 per cent barrier include Stirling, Falkirk and Perth & Kinross.

Clackmannanshire was also one of the most improved councils, recycling seven per cent more waste than in 2011, while Inverclyde and Moray boosted their recycling rates by nine and seven per cent respectively.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Shetland Islands recycled or composted the least amount of waste – with 2012 figures coming in at just 13.5 per cent. Further, Orkney and the Shetland Islands actually saw recycling figures regress, recycling seven and three per cent less waste than in 2011 respectively.

New considerations

Only household waste is now used to measure Scotland’s progress towards the  recycling targets. In previous years the recycling and composting rate was based on Local Authority Collected Municipal Waste (LACMW).

Household waste includes ‘household collection rounds, other household collections such as bulky waste collections, waste deposited by householders at household waste recycling Centres and recycling points/ bring banks.’

This is the second annual report that takes into consideration the new classification of household waste. Under the new definition, gully and street waste is now classed as commercial waste and materials of a poor quality recyclate (such as recycled organic outputs from mechanical biological treatment plants and metals and ash from incineration) are now classed as ‘recovered’ rather than ‘recycled’ materials. 

The new definition of household waste, plus new restrictions on what is classed as recycling, are aimed to ensure Scotland focuses on closed loop recycling. However, SEPA has conceded that ‘it may actually make it harder to meet the targets, as local authorities will have to focus on high quality material capture from households and engage with communities to progress further increases in recycling.’

“Accelerating this progress is a priority”

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead today welcomed the new figures, saying: “Today’s figures show that over half of Scotland’s local authorities are above the national recycling average, with nine already hitting the 50 per cent target – two more than last year. We can also see that Scottish households produced 100,000 tonnes less waste last year.

“Building on and accelerating this progress is a priority for the Scottish Government, as it is for local authorities, and that is why we’ve invested £20 million to help local authorities roll-out food waste collections to households across the country...

“The Scottish Government will continue to seek the advice of Zero Waste Scotland on what other initiatives can be taken forward to improve Scotland’s recycling performance, including a national deposit-return scheme. However, the Zero Waste agenda is about much more than just recycling – it’s about turning our waste into an economic asset that will improve the competitiveness of Scotland’s economy. We continue to work closely with the businesses and organisations like the Ellen Macarthur Foundation to stimulate these important opportunities.”

Earlier this month, Scotland launched 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.

Read the ‘Official Statistics Publication for Scotland - Household waste - January to December 2012’.