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How will Zero Waste Scotland step up to the landfill ban?

4 June 2019

It was the first country to declare a climate emergency. And one of its cities plans to become one of the first to reach zero waste status. But with many councils unprepared for its upcoming landfill ban, can Scotland “change the behaviour of people and organisations across Scotland to create a fundamental shift towards a more resource efficient and circular economy.”, as Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) the expert body that delivers the country’s circular economy plan, says will be needed.


The Scottish strategy

According to their first (2016) circular strategy, Making Things Last, two key elements will bring together all sectors and individuals, to work together towards a more circular economy. Producer responsibility - ensuring that end-of-life impacts are fully taken into consideration when goods are placed on the market - “and a food waste reduction target of 33% by 2025, the first such target in Europe, will act as a catalyst for action along the whole supply chain, from farm to plate.”


Landfill no longer

Up until now the “most practical” way to manage the majority of the million tonnes of waste the country produces, the upcoming landfill ban could prove very costly in the short term for councils due to lack of alternative waste management methods. Treatment capacity could be short by between 1.01- 1.28 million tonnes. However, cost impacts could be reduced if waste is minimised and recycling targets of 70% of all waste by 2025 are met, sending no more than 5% to landfill and instead embracing the potential billion Euro opportunity in circular economy.


Procurement possibilities are endless

The Making Things Last strategy identifies four focus areas: manufacturing, construction, energy infrastructure, and food and drink and the wider bioeconomy. An overall emphasis on repair, refurbishment and re-use of devices is set to exploit the potential £130m benefit from processing recyclable materials that would otherwise be exported. The Scottish Materials Brokerage was set up to tackle the fragmented recycled materials market, and provide increased market stability for recycled materials, provide economies of scale by allowing local authorities to pool materials. Amongst the detailed guidance on procuring for Repair, Re-use and Remanufacturing, the Revolve project provides a reuse quality standard for second hand goods. Within food, drink and bioeconomy, the public sector are also trying to phase out the purchasing of non-renewable biological materials, such as peat, which will serve to protect peatlands and help stimulate demand for renewable fertilizer and soil conditioner products from anaerobic digestion and in vessel composting. And the beer, whisky and fish industries also have many circular opportunities to explore including waste and by-products being recycled into animal feed and products like beer made from surplus bread thanks to startups supported by ZWS.


Mentoring and training

ZWS’ procurement work to date has focused on upskilling public and private sector procurement professionals, by raising awareness of sustainable alternatives and enabling measures to embed these into procurement practice. Training, guidance encouraging procurement on lease, re-use or remanufactured basis, and mentoring e.g. relating to contract management, for instance regarding life cycle impact mapping, have proven to be key. An E-learning module by the Scottish Government in collaboration with Zero Waste Scotland helps spread this knowledge.


Excelling in the domestic furniture department

Scotland Excel’s Furniture Framework demonstrates a 360° approach to sustainable procurement. Developed to support furnishing requirements for temporary accommodation, to meet new obligations arising from the Social Welfare Fund (SWF), the framework has unexpectedly become a benchmark for sustainable procurement. And helped councils maximise funding, minimise their administrative costs, and provide a more convenient service to vulnerable members of their communities who require essential domestic goods. Instead of cash payments, goods are supplied, delivered and installed by one company, resulting in a shorter timescale, easier co-ordination and more efficient logistics i.e. a lower carbon footprint. 150 tonnes of waste were also diverted from landfill through recycling initiatives with third sector partners. Winning the Sustainability/Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative of the Year Award at the  at the National Government Opportunities (GO) UK Public Procurement Excellence Awards, Judge Peter Smith, said: “Not many procurement projects can claim to have positive corporate social responsibility effects in terms of everything from job creation to carbon reduction, from supporting [employing] disadvantaged people to reducing waste.”


ICT for circularity

The Scottish Procurement Team’s 2015 frameworks for the supply of ICT client devices used by public sector organisations are a great example of performance-based procurement along circular economy principles. Scottish Procurement prescribed contractors to extend the useful life of workstations and computers. As a result, contractors offered products with modular product design that enabled the reuse of these products, or their components. Contractors were required to include take-back-schemes so that devices or their parts could be re-used and not end up as waste. They were also requested to minimise packaging waste generation, with minimum specifications for recycled content and returnable, reusable options. However, a recent 360° review (framework developers, suppliers and users) undertaken by ZWS, demonstrated that ICT was, still largely being procured in a linear way and the take-back, repair and refurbishment services of the suppliers were underused by public authorities. Cited barriers include limitations of the hardware processing speed of older models & data cleansing requirements.


Incinerating vs. zero wasting

The move to a value-focused, circular society requires a complete cultural shift. One that, Scotland’s zero waste strategy states, puts people first. And avoids “sleepwalking away from recycling and down the incineration route” as local resident and former BBC Scotland environment correspondent, Louise Batchelor, put it and other parts of Europe have succumbed to, despite the strong opposition of campaigners: “We are about to be locked into decades of having to feed incinerators instead of doing something more sensible with our resources,” says Dr Richard Dixon of Friends of the Earth, instead of embracing the potential billion Euro circular economy opportunity.