Talks Circular economy

Scotland’s world-leading circular economy

 By Amanda Saint
Circular economy

Scotland is leading the way in moving towards a new circular-economy style of living, where consumption followed by disposal is out and recycling to re-using is in…

Scotland’s drive toward increased sustainability is in part due to the ambitious Circular Economy Package from the European Commission, which is focused on helping businesses and consumers use resources in a more sustainable way. The strategy includes plans to make sure that all raw materials, disposable products and waste are processed, manufactured, used and disposed of in ways that will save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Many of Scotland’s initiatives to develop a circular economy and develop more sustainable ways of living are managed by Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS). This E.U.-funded organization gathers evidence to inform policy development and decision-making, and designs and manages programs to motivate practical behavioral change in both individuals and businesses. The work it has done to date has contributed to annual savings of 990,000 tons of carbon emissions.

Circular Glasgow

Circular Glasgow was the first project in a joint initiative that is being delivered by ZWS in conjunction with local Chambers of Commerce. Using workshops, studies and assessments, the aim of this year-long project is to build best practices and identify opportunities to build more circular projects. Some of the initiatives that it has been involved in so far have been focused on reducing plastic use and reducing raw material use.
Plastic Free July ran a social media campaign using the hashtag #sendplasticpacking that encouraged consumers to rethink their practices to cut single-use plastic and to influence businesses to introduce sustainable plastic-use policies into their CSR programs. Twitter users were uploading pictures showing the changes they had made, and many organizations provided tips and inspiration. Circular Glasgow has also created the first Scottish beer to be made from leftover bread by connecting a baker with a brewer, meaning less bread ends up in landfills, and fewer raw ingredients are needed to create the beer. Aulds The Bakers now supplies its unsold morning rolls to Jaw Brew, which uses them to create their Hardtack beer brand. 

“Circular Glasgow” advertising spot

Carrier bag charge

In 2014, Scotland introduced the 5 pence (7 cent) carrier-bag charge which has led to an 80 percent reduction in bag use. The number of bags being handed out has gone down by approximately 650 million, saving 4,000 tons of plastic, and carbon emissions have been reduced by 2,500 tons a year. Many businesses are donating the money they gain through these savings to charities, and more green initiatives are being funded through it. Keep Scotland Beautiful receives the 5 pence charge from businesses such as H&M and Tesco and uses them to fund environmental projects. One of these is the Bee Diverse biodiversity campaign, which encourages and enables communities, groups, organizations and individuals across Scotland to plant native wildflowers that will encourage and support pollinators. The Marine Conservation Society (MCS), which played a big part in getting policy makers to push through the new carrier-bag law, receives the funds from Marks & Spencer’s charge. MCS uses those funds to support its work in many areas, including keeping Britain’s beaches and seas clean; protecting threatened marine species such as sharks; encouraging sustainable fishing practices to enable depleted fish species to recover and thrive; and establishing Marine Protected Areas in Scotland’s waters.

The Bee Diverse campaign encourages to plant for pollinators and to encourage biodiversity (

Efficient homes and businesses

Another big driver for Scotland’s circular-economy efforts is introducing energy- and water-efficiency schemes for the country’s homes and businesses. There are more than 2.4 million residential homes in Scotland, and the government is planning to introduce new energy efficiency standards to ensure that both power and heat are being used in the best ways possible. The long-term vision is that by 2040 every single home in Scotland will have an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) rating of at least C. The EPC system gives a property an energy efficiency rating from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient). The government is also working on projects to find ways to reduce the demand from the country’s energy-intensive industrial and commercial organizations, which make up 40 percent of total energy demand. It aims to improve industrial and commercial energy productivity by at least 30 percent by 2032 through a combination of fuel diversity, energy efficiency and heat recovery.

Sustainable Scotland

With these initiatives and many more focused on making Scotland more sustainable and the country’s economy more circular, the country has been selected as the 2018 host nation for Circular Economy Hotspot #CEHotspotScot. This is a major international event that will showcase Scotland’s progressive approach to developing a circular economy and its fast-developing circular businesses to a global audience.
Now in its third year, the Circular Economy Hotspot event is helping more and more countries to get in on the act to recycle, reuse, and cut energy use and the amount of discarded products going into landfills.

READ MORE: Circular economy around the globe by Peter Ward

about the author
Amanda Saint
Journalist and content writer, specialised in engineering and technology with a focus on environmental sustainability, urbanisation and biotechnology.