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Iain Gulland - Director, Zero Waste Scotland | 4 Oct 13

What can I say about the Scottish Resources Conference which we’ve hosted with CIWM over the past two days that will give it any sort of meaning for those who weren’t able to make it?

The short version is - where were you?  You really missed out.  It was inspiring, terrific, passionate, fantastic, thought-provoking.  Those aren’t my words – they’re a selection of those used by others from scanning the #scotres13 on Twitter.

We were lucky to have such a strong line-up this year and such a willingness to debate, challenge, ask questions and share from all those who participated.

That tone was set from the off - with the opening keynote speech from the Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead focusing on Scotland’s role in addressing global challenges through its willingness to collaborate, innovate and convert words into radical action.

The panel debate on day one brought international experience from South Australia and leading lights from Scotland’s resource sector to look at the challenges and opportunities arising from the new regulations and the growing interest in the idea of a national deposit return system for drinks packaging.

There was no doubt about who the star attraction on day two was.  Walter Stahel gave a tour de force presentation on the circular economy.  In a way it was eye-opening that he was using slides with ideas from 1979 – someone’s had the vision all this time.   But it was also heartening to see in the panel debate that followed that the vision he has long articulated is now really coming of age – being carried forward by Scottish Government, WRAP, Scottish Enterprise and others determined to make it a reality.

Billed as the ‘godfather’ (or was it the ‘grandfather’?) of the circular economy, Walter devoted a considerable personal contribution to the cause in his time at the conference – engaging all comers and sharing his wealth of ideas and experience – as well as taking time out to meet the Cabinet Secretary and go to the Scottish Parliament to give evidence to the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee.  Just a hugely impressive guy and an inspiration to me personally.

For those who were there – more than 350 over the two days – the buzz was all about turning all the ideas into action.  I spoke to several folk who were going to go away and look again at how they operate and how they can do things to support a circular economy.  That’s the best outcome of these events – not just provoking thought but inspiring action too.   The breadth of the audience was impressive too.  Our collective challenge is to build on that and continue to cast the net wider in engaging businesses and others in this thinking.

To top it all off, we had a great networking conference dinner with many worthy winners of this year’s Scottish Resources Awards unveiled.  Not least from within our own ranks – always a proud moment to see others recognise the work of your team.  One of our local authority team, Louise Bradney, was awarded an inaugural travel bursary to investigate mixed plastics markets in China; comms team member Ross Burns was named Young Recycler of the Year for his work on the Recycle and Reward trials; and last but not least, my friend and colleague Charlie Devine, who I’ve ‘grown up’ with in this industry, getting a long overdue and very well deserved Outstanding Contribution Award voted for by his peers.   Long may his outstanding contributions continue!

If that wasn’t enough, we had the launch of the Scottish Government’s Safeguarding Scotland’s Resources action plan, announcement of funding for  Panel2Panel  creating 25 new manufacturing jobs in Dalbettie, new commitments to up the ante on waste crime from SEPA, an update of our ground-breaking carbon metric, news of a circular economy course at Heriot Watt Uni, and a whole stack of new signatories to Scotland’s Resource Sector Commitment.  Talk about turning ideas into action – it’s happening right now in Scotland – we’re right in that evolutionary curve.

I’m looking forward to next year already.

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