Firstly, a big thanks to Joe for keeping us informed and entertained over the past 18 months or so, and we wish him good luck and all the best in his new post. We won’t let him get away that easily though, so we’ll pay him a visit to see how he’s getting on at Going Carbon Neutral Stirling once he’s had time to settle in. As for me, I’m going to try and not undo all of the good work that Joe has done, and in his last post he highlighted the fact that the Zero Waste Plan has just been launched, so this seems like an ideal topic for my first blog.
There’s been a lot of talk in the world of waste about the much anticipated Zero Waste Plan and if you’ve not had chance to read it yet (all 59 pages of it), I’ve picked out some salient points which could impact on you and how you run your business.
In brief the Zero Waste Plan sets the direction of the way forward for waste and resource management in Scotland over the next 10 years. It aims to achieve a Scotland where waste is seen as a resource and everyone plays a role in reducing the demand on the Earth’s natural resources, reusing and recycling materials whenever and wherever possible, and then recovering resources once all of these options have been exhausted. Scotland is now achieving a recycling and composting rate of 37%, almost double what it was 5 years ago and the plan aims to build on this success.
It all sounds good so far but as with everything the devil is in the detail and the following points bear particular significance to businesses:
- The Municipal Sold Waste (MSW) target (which was largely household waste) of recycling and composting 70% of waste by 2025 and maximum 5% of waste to landfill now applies to all Scotland’s waste – household, construction, commercial and industry.
- SEPA will produce a revised Waste Data Strategy outlining the steps and timescales for improving commercial and industrial waste data by the end of 2010. The Waste Data Strategy will include making use of Regulations to be made under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act by October 2010, establishing a mandatory requirement for businesses receiving waste data requests from SEPA to complete them.
- Separate collection for food waste from households and business sectors, such as commercial kitchens, hospitality sector, food retailers and manufacturers likely to be by 2013.
- Separate collection for materials such as paper, cardboard, metal, plastics, textiles and glass from all sources likely to be by 2013.
- Following the separate collections for materials there will be landfill bans on unsorted waste, with progressive bans on individual materials sent to landfill and a progressive limit of biodegradable content of waste that can be landfilled.
- A carbon metric will be introduced to be used along side the current tonnage metric which will help prioritise the recycling of resources that offer greater environmental and climate change outcomes. Although because of the lack of data concerning Commercial and Industrial waste this will not apply to this sector immediately, but likely to be for all waste streams by 2025.
- Scottish Government will develop a Waste Prevention Programme in line with EU Waste Framework Directive by the end of 2010.
- Zero Waste Scotland will develop and promote a sustainable procurement toolkit for use by public and private sector to encourage the purchase of products containing recycled content and minimise overall resource use.
- Zero Waste Scotland will develop good practice commitments for resource management, collection and services provided to householders and businesses, with the aim to achieve consistent services to users.
As you can see it’s certainly an ambitious plan, but there’s not much point in having a plan if it doesn’t push the boundaries and strive to achieve the very best. Obviously the long term target isn’t going to be reached overnight and separate recycling and composting targets for commercial and industrial waste streams will be developed, (once better data has been collected), acting as stepping stones for this long term goal.
Separate collections of materials have been highlighted as a priority in order to increase the quality and quantity of the resources recycled and to maintain their value and generate market supply. The example given in the plan illustrates how food waste can be treated using a biological process, such as anaerobic digestion to produce energy for local homes.
Looking at the Plan in terms of the waste hierarchy (reduce, reuse, recycle, recovery) it’s good to see that waste prevention is at last getting the attention it deserves. It is always significantly better to reduce and reuse materials, as this cuts down on the amount of raw materials being used, and recycling still requires energy, so it will be interesting to see what the Waste Prevention Programme delivers at the end of this year.
As a business now is an ideal time, if you are not already doing so, to move towards a ‘zero waste’ way of thinking, so that when the short term targets are introduced you are ideally placed to help Scotland achieve them. Using resources more sustainably and minimising your waste can also help you to reduce cost, increase profit and gain a competitive advantage.
Why not complete an internal audit of your business, so you can see if there are any areas where you can design out waste altogether, perhaps by removing the plastic cups from the water cooler so that people have to use their own cups and glasses? Could you use reusable materials instead of disposable ones, such as washable napkins instead of paper serviettes? Or could another local business, voluntary group etc. make use of any materials that you produce as a by-product, such as cardboard boxes? These are only simple examples but by thinking more creatively and looking at each of these steps you can reduce your costs at both the purchasing and disposing ends of your business. The increase in landfill tax is also an issue to bear in mind, currently it is £48 per tonne of waste and this is set to increase by £8 a year until 2013 when it will be £72 per tonne. This is a big expense for any business and another good incentive to move towards zero waste sooner, rather than later.
With the development of the Zero Waste Scotland procurement toolkit, and the good practice commitments for waste services, it’s reassuring to know that you will not be left to tackle these issues alone. Many of the comments we hear concern the inconsistency of services available so hopefully these commitments will go some way to providing support for businesses and alleviating these problems.
In the meantime, don’t forget you can look at our Business Recycling Directory to find your local services and the Green Business Partnership can provide small to medium sized businesses with free and subsidised assistance on how to become more green and maximise the business benefits of doing so. Envirowise also offers free and independent support to businesses helping you to become more resource efficient and save money. With all of this help out there, what are you waiting for!?
Also, if you have any of your own ideas on how to reduce, reuse or recycle waste and examples of things you have done that have worked, or even those that haven’t worked so well, why don’t you let us know so that we can pass them on? (See, we’re even into reusing ideas!).