Study identifies sheer scale of opportunity for Scottish bioeconomy

A new report has highlighted the "huge opportunities" for 27 million tonnes of biomaterial such as food waste, by-products and agricultural residues to add value to Scotland's economy.


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The research from Zero Waste Scotland provides insight into the circular economy potential for waste and by-products generated in Scotland by quantifying and mapping bioresource arisings.

The report highlights that Scotland already has a great deal of biorefining expertise including research into brewing and fermentation, as well as the future potential for forestry and marine biomass and synthetic biology.

For the first time, the study has quantified a number of previously unaccounted for or ‘hidden’ resource streams including agricultural residues and by-products, both of which have significant biorefining and economic potential.

Zero Waste Scotland chief executive Iain Gulland said: “Scotland is building an impressive portfolio of circular economy business models, with entrepreneurs already offering products as diverse as fuel from whisky by-products and beer from unsold bread on the commercial market.

“This report will help showcase our burgeoning portfolio to a global audience – as well as demonstrating the opportunities available to develop new, sustainable and profitable circular economy businesses in Scotland.”

Economic growth

Researchers say the study confirms that there is sufficient feedstock to enable Scotland to be confident in developing opportunities for biorefining. It is thought that food and drink by-products alone could produce an extra £500-£800m for Scotland’s economy.

The report claims that with the right investment, residues from whisky production such as pot ale, agricultural residues such as animal manure and unused or misshapen fruit and vegetables, and even wastewater sludge from sewage treatment facilities could be put to good use.

Zero Waste Scotland also highlights opportunities for economic growth and new job creation, particularly in rural and coastal areas where many of the waste materials arise.

The report ties in with the launch of a dedicated support service which provides data on type, quantity and location of bio materials available in Scotland. The Scottish Bio-Resource Support Service provided by Scottish Enterprise will also aim to help companies understand the funding and support available to help keep high-value materials in use.

Circular Scotland

Zero Waste Scotland works with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to explore and pioneer ways to develop a circular economy through a £18m fund. 

Last year, the Scottish Government unveiled its first ever circular economy strategy, outlining bold plans to significantly reduce waste in the food and construction sectors and promote recycling and reuse across the country. Scotland’s waste targets include a 95% landfill diversion goal and 70% of waste recycled or prepared for reuse by 2025.

The country’s drive for a circular economy reached a major milestone in August with the announcement that 100 quality-certified re-use stores are now in operation.

George Ogleby

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