Moving Towards Zero Waste

Waste affects every one of us in Scotland. Every day, at home and at work, we acquire, use and dispose of resources. As individuals and organisations we are becoming increasingly aware of our impact on the environment, and the need to look after the precious resources we all depend on.

The Scottish Government’s Zero Waste Plan external link sets out a vision of a zero waste Scotland where waste is treated as a valuable resource and not as a burden. It proposes a long term target of recycling 70% of all Scotland’s waste requiring that waste is sorted into separate streams for recycling and reprocessing, leaving only limited amounts for residual waste treatment, such as energy recovery.

Delivering these changes has the potential to bring about significant benefits to Scotland’s economy and environment, such as:  

  • supporting and expanding Scotland’s recycling industry will help reduce our demand for expensive virgin materials while also creating new opportunities for economic growth and jobs in the recycling sector; 
  • replacing our reliance on landfill through increased recycling will substantially reduce landfill emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas 24 times more potent than carbon dioxide; 
  • processing food waste at anaerobic digestion facilitates will allow us to harness green energy and produce high quality fertilisers. 

The amount of waste going to landfill in Scotland has reduced from around 16 million tonnes in 1994 to around 4.5 million tonnes in 2010. Recycling rates across households, business and construction have never been higher. Although this shows good progress, there is still more that everyone can do to reap the economic and environmental benefits of a Zero Waste Scotland.  

The Government funds a support programme delivered by Zero Waste Scotland external link to help individuals, businesses and communities reduce waste, recycle more and use resources sustainably.

SEPA works with the Scottish Government and Zero Waste Scotland to achieve the objectives and targets of the Zero Waste Plan. We have a wide range of responsibilities including regulating waste management activities such as landfills, incinerators and the export of waste, administering the producer responsibility schemes for packaging, WEEE and batteries, collecting and interpreting waste data and tackling environmental crime.