UK’s largest recycling centre opens in Scotland

The UK's largest recycling centre has officially opened in Livingston, Scotland, on the same day that waste experts called on the UK Government to scrap weight-based recycling targets post-Brexit.

Run by Scottish aggregate supplier Brewster Bros, the £3.8m recycling centre which opened on Monday (20 August) will be able to process 400,000 tonnes of construction, demolition and excavation waste per year.

The facility starts operations in the wake of the Scottish Government’s Circular Economy Strategy, which set a 2020 target to ensure at least 70% of the nation’s construction and demolition waste is recycled.

“In Scotland the construction sector is responsible for producing nearly half of the country’s waste, and recycling construction and demolition material has a key role to play in minimising that,” said Zero Waste Scotland’s strategic programme manager for construction, Stephen Boyle.

“By recycling, we can keep materials out of landfill and in high-value use for longer, reducing the need to quarry finite virgin material and helping the environment. But what the launch of the Brewster Bros recycling plant shows is that by recycling effectively we can also generate investment and create new jobs, which is great news for Scotland.”

Using a wet processing system, the plant can process and recycle soils and rubble collected by Brewster Bros’ fleet of tipper lorries from construction sites into high-value sand and gravel. The company anticipates that by selling recycled products made at the facility, the plant will achieve an annual turnover of £3m.

The waste streams for the facility will be collected from building and construction organisations which have waste management contracts with Brewster Bros.

Weighty issues

In related news, the Environmental Services Association (ESA) has this week urged the UK Government to stop setting weight-based recycling targets after Brexit, arguing that alternative measures such as carbon metrics could spur greater resource efficiency.

The call to action comes after the ESA examined the measures EU nations would need to take to achieve the bloc’s 2035 recycling target of 65%, as outlined in its Circular Economy Package.

Summarising its rationale in a report entitled Why Wait? Weight isn’t Working, the ESA argued that instead of an absolute target for recycling, individual material streams could each have their own target in a tailored ‘dashboard’ of metrics.

It suggests that alternative metrics which should be tracked at a national level include resource productivity, environmental performance, carbon use, circularity and secondary material use.

The report also states that a carbon metric for some materials would “link better with the natural capital approach being pursued by Defra”. Such an approach would place a monetary value on natural resources such as clean air, clean water and crops. 

The ESA report concludes that the Government’s soon-to-be-unveiled Resources and Waste Strategy (RWS) provides an “opportunity to transition away from blunt weight-based targets to smarter indicators for the circular economy”.

“Current EU waste policy measures success or failure on the basis of how heavy something is when it is recycled,” said the ESA’s executive director, Jacob Hayler.

“There is clearly scope in a post-Brexit world for us to do something much smarter which actually focuses properly on environmental outcomes and enables us to capture more value from our waste resources.”

The report comes after Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said that binding recycling targets based on weight alone could lead to “perverse outcomes”, with, for example, heavy garden waste prioritised over plastic.

Sarah George

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