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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Government’

Roughly this time last year, our business blog started to talk about the concept of zero waste, and highlighted the opportunities that moving to a zero waste society can create for businesses across Scotland. As we reach the final stage of the transition period I want to follow on from where that blog left off and talk about the exciting opportunities that the Scottish Government’s Zero Waste Plan creates for businesses.

The Zero Waste Plan highlights how we all have an important part to play in creating a zero waste society. It outlines how there is a need to maximise resource efficiency by reusing and recycling more things more often and it shows the environmental and economic advantages that can be created by promoting a Greener Scotland. Sustainability focuses on meeting the needs of today without compromising the needs for future generations, and the Zero Waste Plan outlines how a win win scenario can be created for businesses that look to reduce their costs by becoming more resource efficient.

Recent research shows that if Scottish businesses put some simple waste reduction measures in place, then there is the potential for them to save about 1% of their annual turnover.  That would equate to over £2 billion if all of Scotland’s businesses took the same approach. Iain Gulland, director of Zero Waste Scotland, said: “Businesses must overcome the perception that going green adds cost – the opposite is true. Those companies that have addressed their environmental performance with even small changes have measured savings in their bottom line.

Zero Waste Scotland is the delivery body that has been put in place to help deliver the Zero Waste Plan and help promote waste reduction behaviour across Scotland. This provides a wide range of advice for a variety of different groups including communities, individuals and businesses. There is a vast quantity of advice and assistance available to those businesses that are looking to take initial steps in promoting resource efficiency, as well as for those who are progressing nicely along their journey towards a more sustainable business.

The new Zero Waste Scotland website is full of information for both large and small businesses looking to reduce their waste and use resources more efficiently. Don’t take my word for it, check it out yourself.

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People are genuinely surprised when they realise that the UK lags behind the rest of Europe in how it deals with it’s waste, and now it seems that we can no longer hide the fact as we actually landfill two million tonnes more waste than any other EU country.

Because of this the Local Government Association (LGA) warns that UK landfill sites will be full in just 8 years unless major changes in recycling rates occur.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like the idea of living in a country that has been labelled a ‘dustbin’, so with this in mind it seems that the aims of the Scottish Government’s Zero Waste Plan can’t come soon enough.  I also don’t need to stress the significance of just how important the decision to include construction, commercial and industry waste is into the waste targets that have been set, as they are by far the biggest producers of waste in the UK.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom, and even though we’ve still got a long way to go, it’s encouraging that lots of businesses in Scotland are trying to do their bit, with a few already well on their way to meeting their own zero waste targets, (you can read about some case studies on our Waste Aware Business website). But on this recent estimate we can only succeed if all businesses play their part.

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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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Today we were visited by the Scottish Environment secretary Richard Lochhead MSP. He was here to officially open our new offices in Stirling. As you may be aware Waste Aware Scotland is one of several programmes within the environmental chairty Keep Scotland Beautiful (KSB).

Richard Lochhead MSB and John Summers OBE

John Summers OBE and Richard Lochhead MSP

Mr Lochhead also used his visit to launch Stirling Council’s new initiative to reduce food waste and to present Waste Aware Scotland (that’s us) with the 2009 International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) Communication Award for its new, innovative recycling campaign. The award is a fantastic achievement and testament to the hard work of my colleagues and the management here.

A new KSB website was also launched during the event, making it easier for the public, local authorities, businesses and other Scottish organisations to access support and information about the seven programmes KSB administers.

Celebrating 42 years in the Stirling area, KSB is headed by chief executive John Summers OBE and is one of Scotland’s longest running environmental charities. As he opened our new headquarters Mr Lochhead said “The number of successful projects run by KSB is testament to the good work they have done over the past years, and will continue to do. I challenge the team to continue bringing environment messages to all corners of Scotland – now more than ever; with the Scottish Government’s zero waste vision and the threat of climate change we need to know how we can do more.”

I hope I speak on behalf of all staff when I say we are very grateful to Mr Lochhead for taking the time to come and see us. He delivered a rousing speech which demonstrated the Scottish goverment’s support for our work and the wider environment, which was very welcome.

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PET Bottles

PET Bottles

Last week the Scottish Government announced plans to support the growth of the plastics recycling infrastructure in Scotland to the tune of £5 million. The announcement generated a lot of news coverage which is understandable because it is widely recognised that plastics are a bit of a problem when it comes to recycling and any efforts to solve it are to be commended. The main problems are that there are several different types of plastics in everyday use and each is ideally processed in a different way. Plastic is also relatively lightweight, which means you need a lot of it to make a difference to the tonnage of waste going to landfill. But households and businesses find it frustrating to throw away plastics which they would willingly separate from their other rubbish if only it was collected widely and at the right price. The Scottish Government has recognised the benefits of solving the problem and intend to sort it out by part funding projects to improve the situation.

The £5 million will be provided through the “Mixed Plastics Capital Grant Programme” and businesses and organizations planning to build new facilities are being encouraged to apply for the support here.

The funding will cover up to 30% of total costs so clearly it is intended to complement other sources of funding for the projects.

To find out more about the issue here are some web based resources about plastics:

Waste Aware Scotland

Recycle Now

Wikipedia

To find services for recycling plastics for your business click here to be taken to our recycling directory. Please note you will need to search for the specific type of plastic waste although you can always choose more than one. The most commonly types in the UK are PET (aka Type 1 Plastic) and HDPE (aka Type 2 Plastic). PET is mostly used for clear soft drinks bottles and HDPE is mainly used for plastic bags and opaque milk bottles.

For a more detailed breakdown in the type of plastics have a look at this chart showing all the different types.

Lets hope in the near future we can all stop disposing of plastic to landfill.

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More Than Recycling 09 was a fairly grand event held in the new Concert Hall in Perth, which is smart venue with lots of rooms and a large foyer and main hall.

more-than-recycling

I attended the day as more than just an interested visitor: I was one of the speakers at a “parallel session” on Resource Efficiency alongside two other speakers. The parallel sessions covered various different topics and took place between the main attractions, which included a presentation from the new Scottish Minister for the Environment – Roseanna Cunningham:

Minister for the Environment

Minister for the Environment

Delegates could decide which of the session topics was of most interest to them and attend accordingly. We attracted around 20 people in each of our sessions, which seemed like a decent number considering the other parallel sessions were on potentially more pressing subjects like funding.

It’s always difficult to get the balance right between promoting your own agenda and properly addressing the issues at hand. for example CRNS (who hosted the event) asked us to discuss what changes we could envisage over the next 5-10 years with regards to the flow of materials and resources in the Scottish economy. I was only really able to touch on that in relation to my work with WAB, as I wouldn’t want to try and bluff my way through such a complex issue. So I said what I thought the changes would be to businesses and waste such as targets for Business Waste in line with current targets for municipal waste and a few other bits and pieces.

The presentations will all be made available on the CRNS website shortly apparently, should you wish to read it in more detail.

All in all it was a very successful day, attended by many of the great and the good within the business support industry plus some of the movers and shakers from the Scottish Government. I could see some of the former making very serious points to some of the latter about how much good work they’re doing and how much value they’re eeking out of every pound sent their way. Maybe I should have done the same…

In any case, it was a positive day for the future of community based reuse and recycling services. By the way, we try to list as many as possible in our directory so if you’ve got business waste and can’t find a traditional route for recycling it, do consider contacting the CRNS or using our directory to try and find an innovative solution.

Hanna Hislop

Hanna Hislop

One of the discussions during the day was on whether Zero Waste is achievable and one of the best points I heard, from Hanna Hislop who’s a policy officer with the Green Alliance, was that we need to make sure we don’t let Energy to Waste schemes become too much a part of the solution – after all it’s barely cleaner than burning coal.

Zero Waste has to be an embodiment of the principles that allow us to have a cleaner, sustainable future – it’s not a buzz word or something we should achieve with trickery or stat-fiddling.

I’ll get back off my soap-box.

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