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A Look at What a Zero Waste Target Means for Scotland

Scotland has announced its policy of “Zero Waste”, and is now working out how it will be achieved. Please be aware that this is not a policy which intends that no waste will be produced, clearly that would be impossible, merely that zero waste will be sent to landfill.

Interestingly, we already know that the nation does not intend to go the easiest route toward maximised reduction of Biological Municipal Waste (BMW) sent to landfill by building lots of incinerators. In fact it has limited the proportion of incineration treatment facilities to prevent very many of those being built.

The nation has already seen sweet success in its waste diversion policy, and most importantly, met the current landfill diversion target 18 months early, to the delight of the politicians. Now, it must start driving towards its zero waste target, and must put a wide range of measures in place which must deliver, in a very short space of time.

The targets laid out in the draft plan include 70 percent recycling by 2025, no more than 25 percent of municipal waste going to energy from waste facilities and no more than five percent of waste being landfilled by 2025.

This is truly very challenging, and isn’t going to happen unless every sector of the waste industry and the waste producers get together and al pull together. They must help each other and innovate as they go if the ideal is to become reality.

Zero waste is not new as a concept and has for sure been the goal for Scotland for some years now. The recent launch of the draft Zero Waste Plan serves only to reinforce Scotland’s determination to achieve that ultimate target.

Zero waste does not, we stress, mean the elimination of all waste, but rather the elimination of waste from the unnecessary use of materials, and will include waste prevention, re-use, recycling and sustainable design, to name but a few of the methods in the toolbox.

So far, things are looking good. However, the reports available suggest that in terms of the 40 percent target set for 2010, Scotland was at 34 percent as of March of this year. There is therefore a significant amount to do to make the 2010 and they appreciate that it will be challenging, but it is seen as achievable.

Going onward beyond 2010, the new plan looks beyond municipal waste and turns to those in other sectors. All of them can make a difference.

Since September the Scottish government has been seeking the views of the waste industry through a consultation process on their draft Zero Waste Plan. The consultation publicity makes it clear that the Scottish government wants ideas on how different sectors and waste streams, food waste being a prime example, can have an impact.

With some very hard to meet targets ahead and with a need to look beyond the immediate and obvious sectors and waste streams, finding the ways and means to generate the discussion and new ideas needed is imperative.

So, can it all actually happen? If one looks back 10 years one would have thought such improvements in waste diversion in so short a period would be completely unattainable.

However, there is strong public support for this policy and a Grass Roots willingness to recycle which has been surprisingly strong and growing even more so. Buoyed up by this waste strategies have been getting braver and more ambitious.

Scotland certainly has a lot to talk about during this consultation period, but it is a relatively small country so communication routes are smaller than in larger nations and there may be a greater flexibility not available within governance of larger nations. Scotland will, be followed by England to Zero Waste (with Wales no doubt following a similar track) it has recently been announced by the Labour Government.

As a trail-blazer on this road, Scotland has a lot to give the rest of us too when we follow them later on the same path. But the warning is out that every sector must get involved and needs to do its bit and enable the nation to embark on the journey to zero waste together as one.

Every sector needs to come up with ideas and only they possess the detailed knowledge to make this work. It all comes down to the fact that; it’s not about chasing just one route, it’s about making a difference together – there is no ‘magic bullet’.

Certainly, what the Government has to do, however, is to deliver at pace and to do that it is looking for the solutions that will make the biggest difference in the next four to five years. There are almost “millions” of things that can be done to help by the government and the waste companies throughout the industry. However, only a few will be successful enough to make big differences, so the idea is for the waste professionals to identify the solutions that will make the biggest difference, and make it quickly, and for the government to back those.

Scotland is geared for Zero Waste success, so let us all make it happen!

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