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Leading organisations tell Scottish Parliament that the circular economy is a major opportunity for Scotland’s future

Establishing a more circular economy for Scotland is a huge opportunity to boost Scottish jobs, manufacturing and meet environmental targets, the Scottish Parliament heard today (Wednesday 14 May) from a panel of experts. 

20 May 14

The Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee took evidence on the matter from Zero Waste Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Education Scotland, Skills Development Scotland and SEPA, who collectively told the committee that a circular economy - where materials and resources flow in a cycle of re-use rather than being wasted or landfilled – holds huge potential for Scotland and should be a top priority for government, industry and the education system.

The evidence-giving comes on the same day as Zero Waste Scotland hosts a joint event with Decom North Sea in Aberdeen to explore the benefits of moving towards a circular economy in Scotland’s oil and gas industry.  Oil and gas decommissioning has been identified as a key area in which circular economy business models could yield significant economic and environmental benefits.

Director of Zero Waste Scotland Iain Gulland said:

“The current linear economic model, where we produce, consume and discard, is simply not the best way to extract the full value of resources and maximise economic and environmental gains in Scotland.  By establishing a more circular economy in Scotland - where goods are firstly designed with future re-use in mind, and then recycled and remanufactured to be used again – we can maximise the value of resources in our economy, and embed sustainability in the way we do business. 

“There are opportunities to exploit in most key industries in Scotland.  Decommissioning activities within the oil and gas industry, a sector which is expected to cost between £35 to £50 billion between now and 2040, is a great example of potential opportunities to do things in a more economical and sustainable way – by choosing re-use or remanufacture over recycling, designing for a longer life cycle, and alternative business models such as leasing, for example.

“A circular economy will not only help shield businesses from fluctuations in price and availability of key resources, but there are huge opportunities for business growth for those who can capitalise on the need to repair, reprocess, and remanufacture materials and products.  This would create jobs and economic growth for Scotland.” 

Ewan Mearns, Senior Manager, Strategy Development at Scottish Enterprise, said:


“At its heart the circular economy is about innovation.  It is about finding new ways to recover and re-use materials, to re-design manufacturing processes and supply chains, and to view product design and new business models as important sources of creating new economic value.  We believe that the circular economy holds the potential for genuinely transformative change across the Scottish economy. By maximising the value of materials already in circulation the circular economy can not only deliver environmental benefits but also stimulate growth, increased productivity, job creation and a more resilient economy.


“Together with partners, we are currently managing a programme of research to identify where the economic impacts are likely to be greatest.  This will help us to deliver a range of sector and supply chain pilot projects that will form part of a roadmap for Scotland’s transition to a circular economy.”


Calum Davidson, Director of Energy and Low Carbon at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said:

“In predominantly rural areas such as the Highlands and Islands, imaginative use of waste to create new products is an important part of business efficiency. For example, social enterprise Enviroglass is a Shetland-based aggregates company and is a great example of the circular economy. The raw materials for their building products is not sand or pebbles from a quarry but crushed glass bottles that would either have gone to landfill or expensively shipped to the mainland for recycling. HIE is keen to work with companies and social enterprises to help them adopt the principles of the circular economy to reduce costs and create new business opportunities.”

Ian Menzies, Senior Education Officer for Science at Education Scotland said:

"Scotland is supporting the circular economy and seeking to embed it within the curriculum.  We want to give our young people an opportunity to rethink the future and we are proud to say that Scotland has ambitions to lead the world in the circular economy.  Teaching our young people about global citizenship and responsibility is of great importance and we support practitioners to achieve this and to make connections between Sustainable Development Education, global citizenship and curriculum areas. This is a key feature of Curriculum for Excellence.”


Gordon McGuiness, Skills Development Scotland’s Depute Director for Industry & Enterprise said:

 “We support the work towards a circular economy which will help the shared goal of increasing sustainable economic growth. We are already involved in growing Scotland’s environmentally sustainable sectors through initiatives including the Low Carbon Skills Fund and expect to increase our work in this area as Scotland further embraces the move towards a circular economy”.

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