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5 Key takeaways from the composition of household waste report

The report looks at the composition of household waste collected at the kerbside in Scotland in 2014-15.  The last time this study was carried out was in 2009, so this report provides an important update on the composition of household waste.

Nearly two thirds of what we throwaway could be recycled

On average, 59% of what goes in the non-recyclable ‘landfill’ bin could have been recycled using existing household recycling services provided by local councils. This figure doesn’t include items that go into the landfill bins that could have been recycled elsewhere, for example at a household waste recycling centre. 

Illustration of a bin showing 59% of what we throw away could be recycled

Of the remaining 41% of waste in landfill bins we estimate that 130,000 tonnes could have been recycled at household waste recycling centres, bottle banks and similar.

The breakdown of what is collected in the landfill bin

Of the waste collected in the landfill bin food waste, paper and cardboard, healthcare waste and plastic films make up 63% of the total.

Composition of a household waste bin

The amount of plastic film has increased

Plastic films, which include items such as pet food pouches, fruit and vegetable film bags and cling film, is the only waste type to have seen an increase since the 2009 report.  We estimate there is approximately 57,000 tonnes of plastic films (excluding carrier and bin bags) in the landfill bins. 

The challenge is that the films are hard to recycle with no established collection service and cause contamination in recycling collections, likely to be caused by people thinking they are recyclable.

Only 27% of food waste is being correctly recycled

One average households are only recycling about 27% of their food waste, with the maximum being just 48%.

Food waste is also the single biggest type of waste found in the landfill bin, at just over 330,000 tonnes or 29% of the total bin.

Even well established recycling collections could improve

The average correct recycling for paper was 73% with the minimum being 36%. Plastics have a lower average rate of 37% with the minimum being 13%.

The figure below show the minimum, average and maximum percentage of correct recycling for eight waste types, typically recycled at the kerbside.

Graph showing the minimum, average and maximum percentage of correct recycling

*The number of local authorities that the chart is based on is 18, unless highlighted in brackets.

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