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Building a Circular Economy for Scotland

Evidence from Zero Waste Scotland activities 2012–2016.

Zero Waste Scotland is the Scottish Government’s lead agency for the circular economy.

For a number of years Zero Waste Scotland has supported activities that contribute to the development of a circular economy.

Our dedicated programme of work designed to accelerate Scotland’s transition to a circular economy was launched in 2014. This report aims demonstrate the range and nature of our support and review the activities undertaken between 2012 and 2016, and how these have contributed towards developing Scotland’s circular economy strategy and approach.

Zero Waste Scotland provides leadership and practical support to encourage the growth in Scotland of a circular economy, in which greater value is placed on resources and waste is eliminated as far as possible.

“The Award for Circular Economy Governments, Cities and Regions reflects our clear direction and priorities set out in our circular economy strategy Making Things Last, and the rich programme of investment and innovation we are pursuing in partnership with Zero Waste Scotland, SEPA, Scottish Enterprise, the third sector and business across Scotland.”

Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Rosanna Cunningham.

Understanding how best to support the move towards a circular economy is as much a work in progress as the transition itself.

The challenges in building a circular economy are big but so are the benefits to businesses, to communities and to the climate. Ultimately, all businesses will need to be circular in the future to stay viable – those who can do so first will have a competitive advantage.

We share the story of how we have supported projects and programme and how they have progressed over time. Insights on common barriers to and enablers of progress are detailed to inform future programme planning both by Zero Waste Scotland and other organisations considering similar circular economy support programmes. As a leader in this area, we believe our experience of what works – and what doesn’t work – will be of wide interest.

A short review of ongoing and current activity areas, from 2017 onwards, demonstrates how we continue to progress the circular economy in Scotland, building on the foundations laid through earlier activities.

This report focuses not on impacts and savings, but rather on providing a rich description of how our work has contributed to the development of a circular economy in Scotland.  From the start of 2016, key areas of our circular economy work have been part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), enabling us to significantly scale up our direct support to organisations.

All of the activities described in this report have provided insight that is directly relevant to our ongoing ERDF funded support offering. Our business support offering includes;

  • The Circular Economy Business Support Service: Providing bespoke one-to-one support to help businesses develop their ideas for circular economy products and services.
  • The Circular Economy Investment Fund:  Providing capital investment to support the implementation of business models. Key areas of interest are plastics, the bioeconomy, re-use and flat glass recycling solutions, but this is by no means an exhaustive list.

During the period covered by this report, 2012-16, Zero Waste Scotland largely focused on exploring how circular economy support could operate and on identifying the best opportunities to provide support – activities informed by, and that have helped to inform, evolving policy priorities. Today, Zero Waste Scotland is the lead agency for the circular economy in Scotland – but it is not something that we can achieve alone. Building a circular economy requires extensive partnership working across sectors and between organisations and we aim to be a catalyst for change. Many of the achievements described in this report would not have been possible without the hard work and commitment of various other parties.

Support has been delivered to specific industries or activity areas and has included both direct support, including grants, advice and training, and indirect sector support such as research activities, opportunity scoping, collaborations and networking.

This report covers an extensive range of work area, including:

  • business model support – covering a variety of sectors • cities and regions approach – working across a range of sectors in a small geographical area
  • bioeconomy – stretching across several industries, including food and drink manufacturing, organic waste management and agriculture
  • energy sector – with a focus on oil and gas decommissioning
  • textiles manufacturing
  • remanufacturing – across a range of industries
  • re-use – primarily focused on retail of products for re-use
  • procurement – within public sector organisations
  • resource management – innovative improvements

Since 2016, our role in the development of Scotland’s circular economy has become more formal. Scotland’s Manufacturing Action Plan named Zero Waste Scotland as a lead agency for the circular economy workstream within the plan, while Making Things Last formally laid out the circular economy ambitions for Scotland as a whole. These strategic documents have brought our circular economy support into sharper focus since 2016 and, in conjunction with ERDF support, led to a significant scaling up of some support streams. 

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