“I think everyone realises that there is a long way to go,” Gillian Smith, co-ordinator of Scotland’s Recycling Advisory Group (RAG), told edie. The UK recycles a smaller percentage of domestic waste than any other EU country, and Scotland is worst within the UK. “England and Wales have a better record – they have about 8%,” says Smith. Scotland is recycling only 5.7% of its domestic waste, according to the latest Accounts Commission for Scotland figures.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) Scotland has kicked up a fuss about the Accounts Commission data, arguing that domestic waste recycling in Scotland “really is in a crisis”.

RAG’s Smith hopes that the Scottish EPA’s (SEPA) proposed waste strategy – published in December with a national plan to be adopted by the Scottish Executive this year – will put recycling on its feet in Scotland.

Before much progress is made, SEPA needs to be sure that the data being collected is accurate. At the moment there is no standardisation in the way local authorities report their recycling activities. This means that Orkney, which has not published its figures for two years, had a 19.9% recycling rate in 1996/7, but as Smith understands it Orkney was including recycling of commercial waste in that figure. Other councils report only their metal can and glass recycling figures, whereas others include recycling of end-of-life vehicles.

“In the long term, there will be a lot of pressure on Scotland to catch up with the rest of Europe,” says Smith. “The main thing in the pipeline is the EU Landfill Directive.” Although the UK is likely to receive a five-year extension in meeting the Landfill Directive – because it is so far behind the rest of the EU – the same targets for diverting waste form landfill will eventually apply (see related story).

RAG is an independent group whose members include local authorities, waste management companies and kerbside recycling schemes.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie