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Scotland launches world-leading approach to measuring recycling performance

Scotland will adopt a world-leading approach to measuring recycling performance with its new carbon metric, details of which have been published today.  The new measurement means that climate change impacts will be considered in targets for achieving zero waste from 2013 onwards.

15 Mar 11

Traditionally recycling performance has been measured in terms of tonnage of material. Under the new system, tonnage diversion levels will be weighted by applying a ‘carbon factor’ to the materials collected, which takes into account the environmental benefits of recycling those materials over sending them to landfill.  This is believed to be the first attempt anywhere in the world to apply climate change thinking to waste management performance measurement.

The new system has been devised to support the Scottish Government’s zero waste ambitions.  It will help to prioritise the materials and waste management options needed to reach the target for 70% recycling by 2025.

In particular it will prioritise materials with a high carbon impact such as plastics and textiles, which currently have relatively low levels of recycling in Scotland.

It will also highlight the relative merits of different waste management options, and will support the aspiration for greater ‘closed loop’ recycling markets, for example, by giving higher weighting to glass which is recycled back into glass rather than that which is used for aggregates or insulation materials.

Details of the metric are revealed today in a technical report published by Zero Waste Scotland and a supporting guidance document for councils, published by the Scottish Government.

Environment Minister Richard Lochhead said:

“I'm delighted to announce today another huge and world-leading step the Scottish Government is taking to monitor Scotland’s recycling successes. The new way of measuring performance will focus on the carbon savings of each item, rather than its weight.

“This demonstrates the Scottish Government’s Zero Waste Plan in action and another huge step towards our vision of a zero waste Scotland.”

Iain Gulland, Director of Zero Waste Scotland said:

“Closed loop thinking is central to achieving zero waste – because it means less resources are used in the first place, but also because it can give the best economic advantage by ensuring higher value markets for the materials in the economy.

“Zero Waste Scotland fully supports the carbon metric and we will work with councils and others to apply it and to develop the collections and sorting infrastructure we need to meet our ambitious zero waste targets.”

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) said:

"We welcome the publication of the guidance on the carbon metric and local authorities' involvement in its development.

“COSLA views the application of this metric solely to local authority collected wastes in the first instance, as again demonstrating local government's collective leadership on and commitment to the zero waste agenda.”

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