‘Unacceptable’ – Scotland does not export its waste to other nations, says Scotland’s Zero Waste


By Iain Gulland, Director General, Zero Waste Scotland

In a minute, a lot can occur.

Recent official statistics demonstrate that every 60 seconds, our nation exports about three tons of our waste, including plastic.

Plastic or any other waste to be recycled elsewhere should not be shipped to us. It is unfair that the mess we make is passed on to other countries, where it can cause much more environmental and social harm.

All the products, goods, and services that we collectively create, consume, and far too frequently throw away after just one use, are the single biggest cause of the climate crisis.

It is right for anyone who is worried about this to do so.

By making different decisions, we can and must all do far more to minimize this waste – and take charge of it ourselves.

Our ultimate aim, as a country, should be to reduce the amount of unnecessary materials that we use and waste in the first place, including plastic. We need to make better use of the plastic items we need by recycling them here in Scotland to accomplish this.

‘Unacceptable’ – Scotland does not export its waste internationally, says Scotland’s Zero Waste

This will not only greatly reduce the waste and pollution created by waste worldwide, but will also create much-needed, sustainable Scottish jobs. Exporting our waste ensures that these precious jobs are diverted to other nations. So, as we forge green remanufacturing to resolve COVID and the climate crisis, this vast volume of discarded content should also be front and center.

A Scottish remanufacturing industry would help reduce the current pollution produced by the worldwide transport of our waste. It will also generate valuable recycled content that can then be used to manufacture other goods, create new jobs and further reduce our need for new products that are limited.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency’s (SEPA) latest figures on the amount of waste we export are linked to 2018, and since then we have made progress in reducing waste emissions – mainly by reducing the amount of waste we create and recycling more.

We are getting closer to the target of all our plastic waste being disposed of here in Scotland. Yet we have to drive more quickly. The biggest threat of our lifetime remains the climate emergency.

At present, two companies are already recycling our plastic within our borders in Scotland, while two more facilities are being built.

For one of the facilities under construction – a state-of-the-art chemical recycling center in Perthshire that will pioneer the reprocessing of a wide variety of plastics that can not currently be recycled using traditional methods – the UK government recently approved £ 3 million.

The project is a collaborative venture between Recycled Technologies plastics specialists, Neste – the world’s largest manufacturer of green diesel fuel – and Unilever.

Zero Waste Scotland has invested in the site as Scotland’s circular economy experts, but the presence of a consumer goods company such as Unilever is a clear indication that major businesses are already on board.

This is the green boost we urgently need to “building back better” nationally and internationally to reduce waste and create sustainable, circular jobs in the economy that hold our scarce resources in a “cycle” of usage.

The upcoming Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) from Scotland – set to come on stream in 2022 – holds the possibility of more prospects within our borders for plastic reprocessing.

By ensuring a reliable supply of high quality plastic for recycling, it will bring major environmental and economic benefits, minimizing waste and pollution and creating more ‘green’ jobs.

Reports in the media about the amount of waste we still export have called for an increase in recycling capability in Scotland. We need more energy, indeed.

To this end, the Scottish Government has recently committed to providing £ 70 million over the next five years from April next year to improve facilities for recycling plastics and other materials. This will help push Scotland closer to the establishment of a single, easy-to-use national household recycling service – so that


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