Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

As a business you may feel that you don’t often get the opportunity to showcase and promote all your efforts in waste reduction.  But, making sure that your employees, customers and the wider public know what you are doing and how you are doing it, not only helps to ensures it’s continuing success, but generates a good reputation and publicity for your organisation too.

One way that you can do this, is to take part in this year’s European Week for Waste Reduction which takes place from the 20th-28th November.  Zero Waste Scotland are acting as the official organisers of the week in Scotland, which aims to raise awareness of ways to minimise our waste and encourage change in everyday behaviour in order to reduce the amount of waste produced across Europe.

You could choose to do an extension of a current waste reduction activity that you are already doing, or you could choose to do something completely different as well, and promote them both.  A European Award for the most outstanding and inspiring waste reduction event is also up for grabs!  Some examples of actions you could do include:

  • Measure food waste created in restaurants, canteens or kitchens and provide tips to staff and customers on how they can reduce their waste
  • Arrange a swap day for reusable items, or an office collection of materials such as household goods, clothes and bric-a-brac for reuse
  • Organise a best ‘waste free’ packed lunch competition
  • Run an office waste campaign, encouraging staff to take action to reduce their household waste
  • Run an office ‘best waste reduction idea’ competition

Whatever you decide to do here at Zero Waste Scotland we can provide support with communication materials, PR, event listings and material on waste reduction.

You will need to register your event by the 5th November, you can do this at www.wasteawarescotland.org.uk where you can also find out more information about the week.  If you have any questions about what’s involved you can also speak to my colleague Ylva Haglund on 01786 468 797, or email her at ylva.haglund@ksbscotland.org.uk

Last year we ran the pilot campaign and 33 actions took place in Scotland with a total of 14 countries and 2,500 actions taking place across Europe.  This year we are on track for even more actions, making the week bigger and better, so why not join in and be a part of this European wide activity!


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We all know what it’s like to keep putting something off that we really should have started ages ago, whether it’s sorting out that cupboard at the top of the stairs which hasn’t seen the light of day for years, organising your personal files and papers instead of squeezing them into the draw in which you can never find anything when you need to, or even getting around to redecorating, which was just the bedroom that needed doing when you originally thought of doing something, but now seems to have turned into the whole house.  Before you know it the job seems far too big to tackle, with no easy starting point so it’s easier to pretend you can’t see it, rather than thinking of how good it will be when the job is actually finished.

That’s where Start comes in.  It’s the new project established by HRH The Prince of Wales being launched in Scotland by Scottish Business in the Community (SBC) and their Mayday Network in partnership with Essential Edinburgh.  Start promotes and celebrates sustainable living, showcasing best practice examples and providing people with positive messages and easy starting points to begin their sustainable living journey.  HRH The Prince of Wales will be attending the national launch event ‘Start in St Andrew Square’ festival in Edinburgh from Saturday 4th to Monday 6th September which will focus on the key themes of Transport, Energy, Waste, Food/Lifestyle.


Start hopes to build on the success of The Mayday Network, which now has over 2,800 businesses across the UK committed to tackling climate change and creating sustainable business practice.  The network is free to join and asks that your business is dedicated to tackling the effects of climate change.  The benefits of joining the network to your business range from saving money to free support.  The businesses involved in The Mayday Network will play an integral role in developing Start and supporting consumers on the same journey which they have already been through.

If you are an individual or a business who is interested in finding out more, why not join The Mayday Network or go along to one of the Start events so that you can become involved at the beginning of this new journey.  Go on, give it a try, you know what happens when you keep putting it off.

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Arguments are useful, but only when resolved. Nothing is achieved in the middle, where bad feelings fester and compromise remains a distant island, invisible over the horizon. Only once agreement is reached, hands shaken and documents signed can the parties relax and begin to plan for their future.

Strange Bedfellows - but they get along.

This is as true in life as it is in business but it is in business that we often find the biggest arguments: those which impact on the wider community. Competition in business does not necessarily make for happy bedfellows and agreement can be extremely hard to reach as self-interest overrides the common good.

Happily we have evidence of a fine example of sharing: the Global Packaging Project (as reported in Packaging News). The project not only involves some of the biggest businesses on our planet but it is also for the purposes of protecting our planet, which is extremely positive. The businesses have got together in Toronto to thrash out the preliminary details of an agreement which will see them use shared language to describe how their packaging affects the environmental sustainability of their business. This is good news, not just for the companies, but also for the rest of us who will no doubt come to understand some of this language and therefore be able to compare the companies’ performance and make informed purchasing decisions. It really is remarkable to think that businesses throughout the world are recognising that the future of their business requires them to share knowledge, reach agreement and utilise new ways of thinking to survive and thrive in the 21st Century. How refreshing.

Let’s hope the agreement can be reached swiftly and the business’s energies can be directed towards making sure they not only use the language, but embody it in the way they operate.

What will change?

Big brands, retailers, manufacturers, suppliers and other organisations are discussing how to describe and define their packaging throughout the supply chain. This will change the terms they use and the way businesses up and down the supply chain have to think about the packaging they use. It will allow companies to measure their suppliers in a consistent, objective way. It will therefore also allow us to measure the businesses and make decisions about where we spend our hard-earned money.

You can find out more about current packaging initiatives on our Positive Package website.

Who’s involved:

Asda, Carrefour, Giant Eagle, Hannaford, Harris Teeter, Kroger, Marks & Spencer, Loblaw, Metro, Migros, Pick’n Pay, Royal Ahold, Safeway, Sam’s Club, Sobeys Inc, Supervalu, Target, Tesco Stores, Wal-Mart Canada, Wal-Mart, Wegmans

Beiersdorf, Campbell, Coca – Cola, Colgate – Palmolive, Conagra Foods, Danone, Fritolay, Freudenberg, General Mills, Inc, Glaxosmithkline, Heineken, Henkel, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Kraft Foods, L’oreal, Mars, Mccormick & Company, Inc, Nestle Group, Pepsico, Procter & Gamble, Reckitt-Benckiser, Sara Lee, Sc Johnson, The Jm Smucker Company, Unilever

Packaging Converters & Material, Suppliers
Arcelormittal Packaging, Alcan Packaging, Ball Packaging Europe Holding, Crown Europe, Dow Chemical, Dupont, Exxonmobil Chemical Films, Mwv, Novelis, O-I, Owens Illinois Inc., Sca Packaging, Sealed Air Corporation, Tetra Pak

Aim, Canadian Council Of Grocery, Distributors, Europen, Fcpc – Pacc, Flexible Packaging Europe, Fmi, Gma, Gs1 Canada, Gs1 Global Office, Gs1 Us, Igd, Pac, The Consumer Goods Forum, The Sustainability Consortium, The Sustainable Packaging, Coalition, Wrap

Center For Sustainable Entreprise, Development, Environmental Clarity, Green Blue, Mckinsey, Quantis, Rochester Institute Of Technology, University Of Manchester.

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It’s a valid question. Why should we recycle rather than send waste to landfill? Why is the Scottish Government moving towards Zero Waste? Why is landfill tax increasing? What benefits does being low waste offer businesses and households? In short: why bother?

Landfill: materials lost forever.

The answers to all these questions is the same:

  1. Landfill is a graveyard: it represents the final destination for materials dumped there. This means that any value in those materials is lost forever and new materials have to be found, some of which are non-renewable so will eventually run out.
  2. Landfill requires space, which could be used for other purposes.
  3. Landfill produces methane as organic materials decompose. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. Admittedly some landfill sites capture this methane and convert it to energy. Others burn excess methane, which everyone passing by can see in the form of massive plumes of orange fire which pump CO2 into the atmosphere. Organic waste could easily be recycled through anaerobic digestion or composting.
  4. Recycling creates value both in terms of the materials and for businesses involved with it. Scotland now has more than 450 recycling services for over 80 different types of material. You can search for them using our Business Recycling Directory.
  5. Reducing and reusing waste saves money. All businesses can implement waste management strategies to save costs this way. Recycling can also save money depending on the type and volume of materials involved.
  6. Packaging is an important way of protecting goods as they reach you. However unnecessary packaging adds weight and bulk to products which can increase transportation costs. Depending on the materials used it can also add to the waste which ends up in landfill. So recyclable, minimal packaging is best. See our Positive Package campaign for more about how suppliers and retailers are minimising the waste they produce.
  7. Landfill increases our use of natural resources. We use trees for paper and oil for plastic. Recycling the paper and plastic reduces the demand for these resources which means it oil will last for longer and fewer trees need to be grown. Less mining is needed for metal, which saves the environmental impact of mining (pollution, energy use).
  8. Recycling requires less energy than producing materials from scratch.
  9. Clean, local energy-from-waste plants could be a solution for our future heating and energy needs. Energy-from-waste no longer means dirty incineration. It can be achieved through anaerobic digestion of organic waste (no smell as it’s all sealed) which produces methane (again, no smell) which is burned just like natural gas to heat water and create steam – just like a coal-fired power plant. Technology allows for close proximity to homes and business with negligible risk to human health.
  10. Landfill sites tend to be big and far away from businesses. Recycling sites can be more local. This reduces the travelling distance of waste and reduces both the fuel and time required to handle the waste.
  11. Recycling allows a product to live again. 99.9% of the material in an aluminium can is recovered in the recycling process. Glass can theoretically be recycled forever as it doesn’t wear out during the recycling process.

There are lots of reasons to avoid landfill by recycling and, in Scotland, we have plenty of ways to achieve this: whether through collections or local Recycling Centres. More and more people and businesses are recycling. The real question is, are you?

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In a room full of people yesterday something shocking happened. During the final question and answer session of a conference on the Scottish Government’s Climate Change Bill one of the delegates asked the panel whether the initial carbon reduction target for Scotland was realistic. What followed was either incredibly depressing or hugely motivating depending on how you look at it.

The panel member asked the room for a show of hands: who thinks Scotland is in a position to meet its target of a 42% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020?

No hands. Not a single person put up their hand.

How many people are undecided?

Again, none.

How many people think we definitely won’t meet the targets.

A room full of hands.

Now bear in mind this wasn’t a room full of capitalist bankers. These were “green businesses” at an event for Green Business Fife in Dunfermline. From construction companies through to consultants not a single business, having heard a whole range of environmental information during the morning’s event, was convinced that the targets could be met.

On the drive home I began to think about what had happened. Was this our own mini Copenhagen? Were the Chinese involved? Then I felt annoyed with myself. I should have stuck up my hand in support of the targets. I didn’t because I’m not a business in Fife and was there as a partner organisation rather than an active participant – which sounds a bit lame now! Had I possessed the foresight and speed of thought necessary to pick up a mic and speak to the room I might have said this:

I have two points to make about this show of hands:

First point: a decade ago hardly anyone in Scotland recycled their waste. The kerbside collection infrastructure of recyclables simply didn’t exist. Yet in the ten years since then we have seen people throughout the country recycle and compost more and more of their waste each year and, now, almost 40% of our waste avoids landfill. This target was, just like the 42%, put in place by the Scottish Government. How did we achieve it? One: we improved the infrastructure. Two: Waste Aware Scotland worked with all 32 local authorities to communicate messages to households letting them know what could be recycled and how to do it. It became part of people’s normal behaviour to recycle rather than throw things away. There’s still a long way to go before we can call Scotland a zero waste country but we are in a much stronger position than many people thought we could be.

Second point: If you asked businesses in this room to reduce their carbon emissions by 10% in 2010 most would find it pretty easy. If you did a bit of staff training here and a changed a few processes there you could almost certainly reduce your carbon output by 10% this year without much difficulty. Then imagine it’s the end of 2010 and someone comes up to you and asks for another 10% reduction in 2011. Again, this wouldn’t be impossible. You could just expand and improve the training and initiatives already in place for 2010. More training, more tweaking. You could get there.

Now add to this the fact that the Scottish Government is committed to decarbonising the electricity supply to homes and businesses in Scotland through carbon capture & storage; local small-scale combined heat and power plants; energy from waste; micro-renewables feeding back to the grid; expanded hydro, wind, wave and tidal powers. With all this we can safely presume (I believe) that, even without individual change by households and businesses, our energy use will be less carbon intensive as a result of greener energy supplies. Let’s speculate conservatively and say this will reduce the total carbon output of Scotland by 10%.

Add these two together and you have a relatively “bankable” 30% reduction. Is it beyond the wit of man to extend this by a further 12% over the course of 10 years?

I freely admit that some people in the room would have had a few “yes buts” and “no buts” to say in response to this. But I would challenge anyone to give me a really good reason why it can’t be done. Yesterday showed me that the biggest problem we face isn’t an economic crisis: it’s a confidence crisis.

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My job, what I am paid to do, is to promote the idea of responsible waste management to businesses and people in Scotland on behalf of an independent environmental charity (Keep Scotland Beautiful).

You might therefore reasonably think that I am pretty one-sided when it comes to environmental issues and see Copenhagen (aka COP15 – the global conference on climate change currently underway involving 192 nations) as the last great hope for our survival. Not necessarily so, dear reader, for I was brought up to have an open, questioning mind and I too look at newspapers, read articles on the internet, watch television documentaries and I listen to the radio so know that the debate about whether we should be bothering to do anything about climate change, and whether climate change itself is even happening, remains unresolved as far as a lot of people are concerned.

Click to visit the official conference website

Indeed a recent poll (PDF) as reported in The Times under the headline “Global warming is not our fault” suggests that only 41% of people in the UK “accept as an established scientific fact that global warming is taking place and is largely man-made.”

This means that 59% of people are unconvinced. Some might have an inkling that something is amiss but they aren’t yet willing to state confidently that they believe man-made global warming needs to be sorted out.

And little wonder. For every message we hear about the importance of reducing energy, water and waste is a potentially conflicting message about the benefits of consumption (for the economy, for jobs, for the country) coupled with a body of scepticism including well-known figures who are quite happy to stand up in public and deny man-made global warming because they believe the science is flawed.

What is an individual person trying to go about their daily life supposed to think? Should we buy new products to help the economy or should we get things repaired or buy second-hand to help the environment? Should we spend time recycling our household or business waste or should we just send it to landfill and let nature take its course? Should we spend extra on train travel or continue to drive? These are real life decisions facing people up and down the country and the combined effect of all these decisions very broadly places each of us into one of several categories:

  1. People who believe the climate is changing as a result of human activity and are actively trying to reduce their own impact.
  2. People who believe the climate is changing as a result of human activity but don’t think individual actions can make that much difference and will wait to see what Government and policy makers decide before acting.
  3. People who believe the climate is changing as a result of human activity but think that trying to resist it is futile in the face of big business determined to maintain economic growth.
  4. People who aren’t sure about climate change and want to see more data to show the truth one way or the other but feel, on balance, that trying to reduce energy, waste and water is probably the best thing to do for the long-term survival of our species.
  5. People who believe that climate change is a distraction from other more pressing issues such as population growth, peak oil, pollution, depletion of raw materials, war, famine etc.
  6. People who do not believe the climate can change as a result of human activities (such as releasing CO2 into the atmosphere) and are ambivalent about the action on climate change.
  7. People who do not believe the climate can change as a result of human activities and think that climate change is a conspiracy to raise taxes and seek global domination.

The truth is that some of us will fall neatly into these categories and others will fall between the gaps or find our viewpoint shifting depending on who we’re listening to at any given moment. What is certain is that it is difficult for people on the ground, “ordinary” members of the public, to know what is right.

My own perspective is that we need to concentrate on facts. Hard evidence should guide our behaviour, not rumour or supposition. Is global warming happening? Is it directly linked to CO2 emissions? One useful source of information I found on the subject is a website called Skeptical Science. I should say from the outset that it tends to support the view that climate change is real and that we are causing it, but it also considers evidence to the contrary. It isn’t afraid to deal with issues such as the recent hacked emails and the potential for this to undermine the science. Other articles on the website look at the “hockey stick” debate which, briefly, is a controversy over a graph produced showing recent dramatic rises in temperature which used different sources of data to plot points on the graph. Some have argued that the sources of the data showing before and after the dramatic rise are so different as to render the whole thing inaccurate. Anyway, I find the website useful and hope you do too. It’s certainly not my only source of such information but it’s consistently thorough.

Back to the point, will the Copenhagen conference change your life? The short answer is: “it already has”. Government policy makes a real difference to people’s lives. In Scotland we have already committed, in the Climate Change Act, to an 80% reduction in CO2 by 2050. That’s massive! And it goes further than any global agreement currently in place. In fact it will be amazing if Copenhagen results in anything like that kind of agreement. But Scotland is doing it anyway. That is bold leadership and businesses and households in Scotland will be actively involved in reaching those goals. So your life will change, if it hasn’t already. But is change always bad? Scotland has tremendous renewable energy potential in tide, wind and wave power. It also has limited space for landfill so, climate change or not, placing all our rubbish in holes in the ground isn’t really a long-term solution.

Which brings me on to the other point I wanted to make, it’s not just global warming (whether or not that has been proven) that should impact on our decisions about how we act. There are a multitude of potential effects on our wider environment as a result of things we do. On a basic level it is anti-social to throw litter away because it is unsightly and someone has to clear it up. So it’s not always the environment that dictates our actions. That is why Keep Scotland Beautiful has such an important job to do. Even if we discover tomorrow that CO2 is completely irrelevant to the temperature of the Earth (roughly zero% chance of that happening) it doesn’t mean that power stations don’t pollute the air and make it less safe for nearby residents. It doesn’t mean that the raw materials used to make the products we use everyday aren’t going to eventually run out if we continue to send them to landfill. It doesn’t mean that rubbish from Scotland doesn’t end up in the massive floating plastic island in the pacific which leaches chemicals into the eco-system.

Being green isn’t necessarily about being fixated on one issue. It’s about wanting to preserve the good things that we have so future generations can continue to enjoy them. Pure and simple.

Just looking at the profile of the event in Copenhagen and how many column inches have been written shows how the environmental agenda has been brought to the forefront of people’s minds. And whatever we conclude about the effect of our activities on the wider environment we cannot dispute the importance of at least having the debate. On a practical level it matters hugely that 192 nations are sitting down and having discussions. It will be fascinating to see what they decide.

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Tweed Valley Goes Green

On a day in which the effects of climate change seemed ominously present with sweeping gales, drenched roads and swollen rivers I drove down to Peebles to present at the Tontine Hotel at an event organised by the Tweed Valley Tourist Consortium.

The Tweed Valley: a special part of Scotland

Attendees from the area included representatives from Hotels, B&Bs, Country Houses, Castles, Food Producers, Botanic Gardens, Guest Houses, Farms, Lodges, Printers and pretty much any tourist related commercial activity you can think of.

I was last to speak and had been concerned that I would be left with nothing much to say, particularly when I considered the calibre of the speakers before me including people from the Energy Saving Trust, the Business Environment Partnership, the Green Tourist Business Scheme, a local business owner and Scottish Enterprise, all of whom would be offering a wide range of advice to the businesses present. I therefore tried to draft a presentation which looked at the bigger picture and covered how things might change for businesses as we move into the next decade. I also, of course, let businesses know what Waste Aware Business can offer through our website.

Overall the day was very well organised and attended. It showed that the Tweed Valley is making great strides towards sustainability and all the support organisations seem to be working with them in some capacity to support their efforts.

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