Shooting for the moon…..

This week I’m heading down to the annual RWM event in Birmingham, and wow, what a difference a year makes. 

Written By Iain Gulland  |  11 Sep 15

At the event last year my role seemed to be to field questions about the impending Scotland independence referendum, what I thought the outcome would be and what it might mean for Scotland and the UK.

This year I assume it will be back to normal business including how we all work together on the shared agenda of increasing recycling and resource efficiency and making the transition to a circular economy. Common enough objectives whether you are Scottish, English, or from any other part of the world it seems. But as ever I hope that I’ll get the chance to tell the Scottish story. I’m looking forward to sharing some of that in my first RWM keynote speech.

In the past year, many big things have happened in Scotland – the carrier bag charge was introduced leading to a dramatic drop of over 147 million carrier bags in the first six months, Zero Waste Scotland continued to support local authorities to roll out food waste collections (now up to 1.5m households and counting), Our Revolve brand goes from strength-to-strength with now over 40 accredited stores across the country. Following the joint Scottish Government/CoSLA task force, a collections charter has been developed with the aim of bringing a consistent collections infrastructure across the country to minimise confusion to the public, increase participation and improve quality. The resource management industry has continued to see a terrific boost from the Waste (Scotland) Regulations and with significant increases in food waste and glass collections from both households and commercial premises we are now seeing investment in further processing and sorting such as the recent opening of Viridor’s new £25million glass recycling facility at Newhouse.

On the circular economy we’ve seen the launch of the Scottish Institute of Re-manufacture based at Strathclyde University, one of only four such institutes around the world and the first in Europe. We’ve held a public engagement campaign; #makingthingslast and the Scottish Government has launched a major consultation on it, backed up by a series of reports from Zero Waste Scotland evidencing the economic and environmental opportunities the circular economy presents.

Whilst the shift to a circular economy remains at the heart of our progressive resource efficiency agenda it also feels that’s it more transformative than simply raising the percentage points on recycling or waste reduction. These incremental changes are common practice now but what’s different is the application of real circular thinking in business and the wider society. Akin to Google’s Moon-shot thinking developing the circular economy is about rethinking the whole system in the way that the moon landings and man’s ambition to fly were first imagined and then executed.

Accelerating development of a circular economy, in my view, is an example of moon-shot thinking – we’re aiming for big gains for the environment and the economy, through transformative and creative solutions. It will require new approaches and new partnerships and some real leaps of faith. I’m pleased that Scotland is seen as a leader on this but it’s a common mission in which we seek wider collaboration and ideas. This journey to a circular economy is not just for Scotland’s benefit – as our recent report on the carbon Impacts of the circular economy demonstrated that there are significant global gains in terms of climate change. So I’d encourage all to check out the Scottish Government consultation and respond, as well as come hear me speak at RWM and help share in the journey.  

My team will be at stand 4M36 – please come and join us during the event!

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