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Why we need more Zero Waste Towns

Exciting times are afoot here at Zero Waste Scotland, as we’re launching three new Zero Waste Towns this month.

Zero Waste Towns are really important pilot projects that allow us to test out lots of different approaches that we will need in order to make the transition to a fully zero waste society. The aspiration is that one day all towns, cities and villages in Scotland will adopt zero waste principles, so the Zero Waste Town pilot projects are bolding going first to learn lessons that the rest of us can follow.

We’ve got three new projects launching in Perth, Leith and Central Edinburgh. These were all projects that answered a call for applications from more urban environments as the initial two Zero Waste Towns in Dunbar and Bute were in more rural locations. Some great lessons were learned from those two initial projects, which ran from 2014 to 2017.

In Dunbar, great results were achieved in getting schools recycling. Virtually no waste was being recycled in the 6 local schools, who just needed an expert guiding hand to get systems set up. A 50% reduction to landfill was achieved within a year, and led to a great relationship with the Zero Waste Town team who went on to deliver some really ground-breaking waste education work involving role-play, animation and puppetry. The real breakthrough for Dunbar was through re-use though, with an initially small scale re-use project consisting of a van and staff diverting re-usable items away from landfill at the local recycling centre eventually blossoming into a hugely successful and wildly popular re-use operation which has spread right across East Lothian. It has generated income that has allowed the project team to set up community interest company Miixer to carry on beyond the funded project, open two huge re-use hubs in Dunbar and Musselburgh and employ 8 full time staff.

The legacy on Bute is one of an island with a social enterprise recycling collection, now expanded into harder to reach properties, flats and tenements and covering textiles and plastics, a Revolve certified re-use operation and shop, a successful closed loop pilot involving collecting food waste from veg box customers from the community garden which then goes back into growing more veg, zero waste being embedded into whole school culture and Bute being Scotland’s only centre for Master Composter training.

These fantastic examples of local circular economy activity will provide the building blocks for a Zero Waste Town model, which will have elements that any town or city could adopt. To ensure we’re capturing initiatives that will work in more urban environments, it’s important that we also look to work in Scotland’s cities and test out different approaches.

The new projects in Perth, Leith and Edinburgh will provide lots of fantastic new approaches to community engagement around zero waste and the circular economy.

The Zero Waste Perth project will see Beautiful Perth, in partnership with Perth and Kinross Council and Perth College, delivering a range of projects in the north part of Perth City Centre including local food sharing activity, food waste prevention with local food businesses, food waste education in schools, food waste cookery demos, a local collaborative network for re-use organisations, repair workshops, recycling promotion to householders and businesses, resource efficiency support for local businesses and piloting of local circular economy projects in partnership with local businesses.

The Zero Waste Leith project will see Changeworks delivering a range of projects in Leith including street based approaches to litter, recycling and re-use initiatives, schools engagement, food waste reduction engagement, repair workshops, a ‘re-use house’ installation in partnership with a local housing association, a zero waste business charter and working with businesses to become project ambassadors and promote zero waste initiatives to their customers and suppliers.

The Zero Waste Edinburgh project will see SHRUB delivering a range of projects in the south central area of Edinburgh including an ambitious food sharing hub including a food waste café and redistribution network, a wide-ranging programme of workshops for food waste reduction, re-use, upcycling and repair for the local community, a programme of re-use activity collecting goods from students at the end of each term to be given away to incoming students next academic year and the creation of local Zero Waste Advocacy Network to share knowledge and foster a project legacy.

We look forward to sharing more updates throughout the life of the projects to showcase the great work that will be happening. 

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