Scotland's cities can unlock £1bn circular economy boon, says report

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has urged Scotland's largest cities to transform waste processes and operations to capture a £1bn economic growth opportunity highlighted by a new Zero Waste Scotland report, released today (31 October).

The construction and built environment, energy infrastructure, food and drink and manufacturing sectors could all reap economic benefits by implementing closed-loop solutions

The construction and built environment, energy infrastructure, food and drink and manufacturing sectors could all reap economic benefits by implementing closed-loop solutions

Key regions of Scotland, including Aberdeenshire, Tayside, Edinburgh and Glasgow could unlock up to £1bn through circular economy practices and principles, the report claimed. Aberdeenshire, for example, could generate more than £620m by overhauling waste management processes across key sectors, while Edinburgh-based breweries and distilleries could reap new benefits through reuse processes.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “These reports show the exciting potential of a circular economy where reducing waste and investing in keeping materials in circulation for as long as possible can release an estimated £1bn of economic opportunities for Tayside, Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. This demonstrates the overall scale of the opportunity for Scotland.

“Scotland is already leading the way with its ambitious and challenging targets for recycling which are above and beyond the EU targets. However, we want the narrative to move beyond recycling to re-use, repair and remanufacturing of items. In this light, we are currently considering next steps for introducing a deposit return scheme which will help us achieve our ambitions.”

Scotland's Zero Waste Plan was launched in 2010 and sets out the Scottish Government's vision for a “zero-waste society”. It includes goals to achieve a 70% recycling rate for all waste, with a maximum of 5% sent to landfill by 2025.

In the loop

According to the report, the construction and built environment, energy infrastructure, food and drink and manufacturing sectors could all reap economic benefits by implementing closed-loop solutions.

Notably, the construction and built environment sector in Aberdeenshire could generate more than £280m through circular economy practices, while the energy infrastructure sector could unlock £250m. For Tayside, these two sectors could contribute to a combined £390m windfall.

The report notes that the numerous breweries and distilleries in Edinburgh could add £1.2m to the economy each year by sending spent grain to be used for animal feed, anaerobic digestion and energy generation.

In related news, Sturgeon has also unveiled the latest projects to receive support through the nation’s Circular Economy Investment Fund. More than £700,000 will be shared across three projects which aim to reuse household appliances in house clearances in Glasgow, recycle coffee grounds into bio-oils and deploy 3D metal printing technology.

In August, the UK's largest recycling centre officially opened in Livingston. Run by Scottish aggregate supplier Brewster Bros, the £3.8m recycling centre will be able to process 400,000 tonnes of construction, demolition and excavation waste per year.

Matt Mace



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