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Making the regional, international – a personal challenge!

Recently I shared some thoughts about a turning point at Zero Waste Scotland – about a time when I was encouraged to test a regional approach to business engagement around the circular economy, rather than relying on a sectoral approach that was more familiar to us.  For the last three years working with cities and regions have been core to our strategy in Scotland.

Iain Gulland | 1 Jun 18

This week I was honoured to be appointed the next President of ACR+, the international network of cities and regions for sustainable resource management, and I’m looking forward to sharing Scotland’s regional successes to help other countries become more circular.

The important role of cities and regions in facilitating the transition to the circular economy is now evident around the globe. Recently the city of Nantes committed to providing 100% of the local population with access to bio-waste sorting by 2025 with the goal of halving all of the city’s food waste; and another ACR+ member Brussels Environment introduced a new label for its city’s restaurants to promote their approach to more sustainable food, in an aim to supply food in an environmentally friendly way and to reduce the food waste generation.   

ACR+ offers a dynamic platform for sharing this strategic expertise, and I’m really excited to be supporting the ACR+ family to grow and become the place-to-go for practical support and collaborative action in Europe and beyond. For us here in Scotland there is an enormous opportunity to learn from fellow ACR+ members, and them from us.

At the heart of Scotland’s ambition to transition to a circular economy we have a target to reduce waste, with no more than 5% of all waste to go to landfill by January 2021, and 70% of waste recycled or prepared for re-use by 2025. But even though our recent statistics show that we have exceeded 60% recycling, the real transformation in our journey has been the drive to make more of the resources being collected at local and national level.

So far 27 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities have signed up to our Household Recycling Charter – a voluntary agreement and associated code of practice agreed by the Scottish Government and COSLA – which aims to make recycling in Scotland less fragmented, improve the quality of the recycling and make it easier for residents. The adoption of the charter has been driven by this realisation that there are significant local and regional economic and social opportunities around the re-purposing of materials and products in a more circular system.

The fact that the majority has already signed up, demonstrates a clear appetite among Scottish local authorities to maximise recycling and encourage inward investment in reprocessing in Scotland. Working at a local level like this makes it easier to listen to the local community and give people more of a say about their local environment and economy.

We want to accelerate what is already taking place and have others follow. That’s why we are currently funding four Circular Cities and Regions: Glasgow, Tayside, North-east Scotland and Edinburgh, with support from the European Regional Development Fund. Across each city and region, the project aims to open new revenue streams, increase competitive advantage, and realise financial savings through learnings and collaboration.

This experience has equipped me to be able to address the needs of ACR+ members, together with Vice Presidents, Fernando Leite, CEO of LIPOR in Portugal, and Josep Maria Tost i Borràs, Director of the Catalan Waste Agency, and support them in their transitions to a circular economy. Much like Scotland, the network gathers members with different realities: from densely populated to more rural areas, from front runners to cities starting their transition.

Our combined efforts will bring us all closer to a global circular economy. Using my experience here to inform international progress, and in turn reflecting the knowledge I gain back home to further develop Scottish plans and projects -  is a personal challenge and one I can’t wait to take on.

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