Waste Management In Scotland: The Zero Waste Management Plan

Published: 2019/12/11 Number of words: 1271



The Zero Waste Scotland plan has been influenced by several factors: the European directive on waste, environmental and economic concerns and by high public interest regarding waste. Providing a framework for member communities, the European directive on waste, known as the ‘waste hierarchy’, prioritises waste management efforts from prevention, re-use, recycling, recovery and landfills (EU, 2015). The Zero Waste Scotland plan provides strategic direction for the management of waste in Scotland for the next ten years (2010–2020) based on this approach. Cost savings brought about by resource efficiency and the impact of waste on the climate highlight the need for the implementation of the plan. In order to fulfil these objectives, the plan focuses on four main areas: resource streams, economic opportunity, the resource management sector, and education and awareness (Zero Waste Plan, 2010).

Resource streams

Waste prevention is the priority of the Zero Waste Scotland plan. The plan focuses on efforts to maximise resource efficiency across all resource streams and recover product value through re-use and recycling. The government recognises that this can only occur if there is a better understanding of resource use and the amount of waste being produced, and knowledge of products suitable for re-use or recycling. This will be done by improving data collection of resource use and introducing a metric to measure the impact of various types of waste on the environment. Capturing data on the impact of waste on the environment will reinforce the need for waste prevention. With regard to knowledge, the government will develop programmes that support education and training for businesses and the public sector.

Additional efforts to realise resource efficiency include launching new programmes and developing existing ones to support priority sectors such as the food and tourism industry and the Scottish Public sector, such as the National Health Service (NHS)

Economic Opportunity

Resource efficiency, according to the Zero Waste Scotland plan, translates into cost savings for both businesses and individuals by reducing the need to purchase new items. To reduce the need for primary resources, efforts will made to produce high quality recyclate. This will be done by investing in proper collection and sorting systems to capture the value of discarded products. To support this effort, the government will introduce regulations to ensure source separation of food waste to prevent contamination of other products. Support through training, procurement toolkits and grant schemes will be accorded to the third sector and recycling industries to improve their capacity to collect and reprocess high quality recyclate.

The government will also support and invest in innovative resource management technologies that will create employment opportunities (generation of over 2,000 jobs) and provide additional benefits through the production of renewable energy from resource management facilities. The energy generated from waste could provide heat to 110,000 homes and power to 170,000 homes in Scotland (Zero Waste Plan, 2010)

Resource Management Sector

The shift from waste disposal to waste recovery has led to the creation of a resource management sector that provides economic and environmental benefits to individuals, businesses and organisations. The government of Scotland will provide strategic direction through a waste regulation framework to create confidence for business investment in the sector. This will be done by ensuring continuous and consistent waste collection and delivery services so as to increase and maintain public and business participation in the sector. To deliver this, the zero waste delivery plan aims to provide 70 per cent of households in Scotland with access to food-waste collection facilities and 80 per cent of households with reuse facilities by April 2015. The government will ensure an increase in the quantity and quality of waste recycled by introducing regulations to further reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills and by providing the means for access to a high quality resource management infrastructure. This infrastructure will include AD and IVC facilities to turn food waste into compost, a plastics-to-fuel-facility and a plastic fuel reprocessor.

Other efforts include developing a market for recyclate by encouraging procurement of products containing recycled material in supply chains and producing innovative products.

Education and Awareness

The government calls on individuals to take responsibility for waste. To support this, a component of the Zero Waste plan will be to provide clear and consistent messages and incentives to encourage good behaviour and to provide knowledge and information. With regard to food waste, the Scottish government plans to work with local authorities and community-based organisations to raise public awareness on the impact of food waste and encourage waste reduction behaviour through new and existing campaigns such as the Recycle Now Campaign and the UK-wide Love Food Hate Waste campaign (Zero Waste Delivery plan, 2014). A zero waste curriculum will be introduced in schools at all levels from an early age to reinforce good practices. To offer incentives to the public, part of the zero waste plan (2011-2015) is to create a reward scheme for each locale. A reward scheme will also be established for businesses in order to recognise their efforts

Research will be carried out to gain insight into people’s behaviour to remove any existing barriers to recycling and increase public participation. Support will be given to voluntary organisations such as the Volunteer and Community Advocate Programme and Zero Waste Town Initiative involved in recycling to further increase participation. Local and national authorities will be helped to understand the role new technologies and infrastructure will play in the plan to deliver a zero waste Scotland.


By April 2015, through profitable partnerships and effort by all, it is intended that the zero waste delivery plan will:

  • reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.1 million tonnes/year
  • reduce waste going to landfills by 360,000 tonnes/year
  • reduce waste produced by 600,000 tonnes/year
  • reduce household food waste by 12 per cent in 2015 compared with 2009
  • achieve costs savings of £370m/year by households, businesses and the public sector
  • achieve £20m/year sales growth of recycled items and 425,000 tonnes/year saving of primary resources by April 2015 (Zero Waste Scotland Plan 2012–2015)
  • directly engage with 30,000 businesses and over 300 public sector buyers informing them of the benefits of resource efficiency aiming for 5,000 businesses to actively take up projects to cut down on their resource use (ZWS Delivery Plan 2012–2015).
  • increase materials collected by SMEs for recycling by 100,000 tonnes
  • have 90 per cent of Material Recovery Facilities (MRF) operators working in good conditions


  1. Scottish Government, 2010. Scotland’s Zero Waste Plan. [pdf] Natural Scotland. Available at: http://www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/sites/files/zws/zero20waste20plan200906201020document2001.pdf. [Accessed 10 March 2015]
  2. Zero Waste Scotland, 2014. Inspiring change for Scotland’s resource economy. Programme Delivery Plan 2014-2015. Available at http://www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/sites/files/zws/ZWS%20Delivery%20Plan%202014.pdf. [Accessed 10 March 2015]
  3. Zero Waste Scotland Plan 2012-2015. Zero Waste Scotland Plan 2012-2015.

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