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Interview with Susan from Zero Waste Dunbar

With applications open for the next Zero Waste Town we caught up with Susan Guy who has been the project manager at Zero Waste Dunbar since April 2015.

Dunbar became Scotland's first Zero Waste Town in August 2014.

ZWS: What are you trying to achieve and what are your ambitions for the Zero Waste Town project in Dunbar?

Susan, Zero Waste Dunbar: “Zero Waste Dunbar is a pilot community engagement project, which aspires to accelerate progress around Scotland's Zero Waste Plan at a local level. We’re working towards a vision of a place where people see waste as a resource and start to value it, sending as little as possible to landfill and getting the most value back from it.

Moving to be a Zero Waste Town is an ambitious project. Although we realize the scale of transformation needed to become fully zero waste will not be complete by March 2017, we have made a really important start in enabling our community to seriously rethink and embed changes that will lead to zero waste to landfill in future. In the time we have we believe it is also possible to put in place a number of the necessary conditions for a more circular local economy.”

ZWS: How do you work with your local community?

Susan: “We’re engaging as many people and groups in our area as possible and we start working with them from whatever point they are at, which differs from school to school, business to business and household to household. 

Our objectives are to engage with schools, households, businesses, East Lothian council and relevant stakeholders to enable as many people as possible to reduce, re-use and recycle more, and move towards a more circular economy on a local scale.”

ZWS: What have been your key achievements so far?

Susan: “In terms of schools, we have the first school in East Lothian with the infrastructure and systems in place to fully recycle. All 6 of our schools have had waste audits, and have developed and started to implement their plans for reducing, re-using and recycling their waste. We have also negotiated with East Lothian Council to trial food waste collections from our schools. We now have 2 Zero Waste Dunbar representatives on the Learning for Sustainability Scotland Steering Group and Communications Task Group to embed and align Zero Waste objectives in curriculum for excellence objectives.

We’ve been doing some really interesting activities with the schools, including a 2-day role playing exercise with secondary school students in which climate change had the side effect of turning people into zombies, which really got students to engage more in how they could make changes to avoid it, to avoid not only environmental harm but also a zombie apocalypse! We’ve also been using green screen technology and have been working with an animator to create some litter prevention films, based on Zero Waste Scotland’s litter toolkit.

We also have 4 textile banks capturing textiles to raise funds for local textile reuse projects, and have funded our local fashion school to design and deliver a line of recycled textile clothing to London Fashion Week in 2017.

We have a community composting project developing and have donated a freezer and food dehydrator to a local food waste reuse project.    

We are widening engagement to households via our schools, door-to-door support and events and the office is a steady flow of people calling in to get advice and support. So far we have 200 households, 6 schools and 120 businesses taking the Go Zero Challenge actions to reduce waste to landfill.

We also have a major re-use project about to launch.  We’ll be capturing items for re-use at the Dunbar HWRC and have a multi-purpose re-use shop and innovation hub due to open in fantastic premises in the town centre.

A Zero Waste Business Pack has been developed and is rolling out in next month and a 5 Star Awards system has been designed for businesses. The 5-star award scheme is to enable businesses to communicate with the public that they are playing their part in helping Dunbar become a Zero Waste Town. Residents who sign up to take the Go Zero Challenge will know when they see 5 green stars on a shop window that this is a zero waste business and will welcome them to bring in their own cup for coffee and or containers for food purchases.”


What advice would you give to someone thinking of applying to become a Zero Waste town?

Susan: “Ensure you have full co-operation of the local authority as this will be central to success of your project. I highly recommend secondment of project officers from your local authority (Waste Services and Education) as they will be able to take the learnings and relationships back with them to their job roles at the council. Our business engagement officer came on secondment from the council, and was able to hit the ground running with a wealth of knowledge and contacts, and will be able to take all he has learned on the project about the community’s needs back to his role at the council.”



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