A selection of wheelie bins

Household Waste Composition Analysis

17 Oct 23

This report provides new estimates for the composition of household waste collected at the kerbside in Scotland in 2021-23, from the physical analysis of waste.

Zero Waste Scotland recently completed a programme of household waste composition analysis studies that were delivered between 2021 and 2023. Waste data collected during these studies from the physical sorting of waste collected has been used to produce new estimates for the composition of household waste collected at the kerbside in Scotland.

Composition of Household Waste at the Kerbside

The Composition of Household Waste at the Kerbside in 2021-23 describes what households throw away and recycle, to highlight the opportunities for further waste prevention, recycling and diversion from landfill.

As well as an analysis of residual waste, which is the bin that should be used to dispose of waste that cannot be recycled, the report also presents a review of the contents of kerbside recycling containers provided to households across Scotland.

This includes analysis of what was correctly recycled across the recycling services provided by local authorities and information on the levels of contamination appearing in recycling containers.

The last time a similar study was conducted was in 2013-2015, so the findings provide an important update on kerbside waste composition.

The report excludes household waste collected at non-kerbside locations, such as recycling points and household waste recycling centres. It’s worth remembering that significant quantities of household waste material – particularly recycled items – are also collected via these non-kerbside routes, so overall household recycling performance is not identified in this kerbside analysis alone.

To carry out all aspects of the analysis, waste composition data was matched to the most appropriate reporting year on the WasteDataFlow reporting platform. The final analysis used the most recent available WasteDataFlow data reported in the year 2021, and is therefore, representative of this period.

Analysis includes:

  • How much is collected at the kerbside in total?
  • What is thrown away in the residual waste bin?
  • Changes in what we throw away in the residual waste bin since 2013-2015
  • How many items that could have been recycled at the kerbside, are recycled?
  • How common is it for the wrong items to end up in recycling collections?

Download the report

To accompany this report, Zero Waste Scotland has also produced a more detailed methodology document designed for technical readers and an Excel dataset of key findings.

Programme methodology

The following documents provide background to the design of the programme of waste compositional analysis studies completed in 2021-23.