Photo of a Scottish landscape looking down on a loch

Scotland's ambitious journey towards a circular economy

06 Nov 23 2 minutes

Scotland is on an ambitious journey towards embracing a circular economy, and to get there we need to harness the unique innovation and dynamism of our country’s businesses.

Iain Gulland, CEO, Zero Waste Scotland


Iain Gulland, Chief Executive Zero Waste Scotland

"All of us have an important part to play in this journey, but the role of Scotland’s businesses is undeniably crucial." - Iain reflects on Zero Waste Scotland's new report, Building a Circular Ecosystem for Scottish Businesses.

Now, more than ever, the need for this transition is vital. Every day around the globe, we’re seeing evidence of the damage our current, linear economic system causes - including pollution, climate change, and biodiversity loss, not to mention the enduring issue of inequality prevalent in possibly every part of our global community.

This amounts to what the World Economic Forum calls a ‘polycrisis’: a simultaneous, combination of crises. It’s clear that if we don’t act now, the results will be catastrophic for all of us. 

Fortunately, there is a real solution and we’re making progress towards it every day. The circular economy will end our unsustainable consumption and replace it with a system that moves away from our current attitude of “make, use once, and dispose” to one where we “make, use, recycle and remake” instead.

By valuing everything, harnessing the full potential of our planet’s resources, and phasing out waste wherever possible, we can end this period of polycrisis and replace it with a new era of sustainability.  

All of us have an important part to play in this journey, but the role of Scotland’s businesses is undeniably crucial.

As a nation, we’re fortuitous that our business sector is a source of endless innovation and creativity, constantly coming up with new and sustainable solutions, products, and methods that will help accelerate our journey to circularity.

It’s why we’re recognised worldwide for our efforts. But we understand that their progress is fragile, and fraught with challenges. 

 Name Photo of a person with curly hair looking wearing safety goggles and looking through a circular piece of machinery

Circular economy and business

Rising costs across the economy present one such challenge. Energy and fuel prices have risen substantially and all businesses – SMEs in particular - are feeling the effects.

Amidst such inflationary pressures, resource constraints present another critical challenge, given that exploring circular opportunities and initiatives can be time-consuming and resource-intensive. And even when they are realised, some businesses then face a stigma against circular products which are presumed to be of lower quality to more traditional, linear products.

Zero Waste Scotland has played a pivotal role in helping businesses with these challenges. Through the Circular Economy Investment Fund, they’ve been provided with financial support, mitigating price rises that might have otherwise stifled investment in circular projects. And through our Circular Economy Business Support service, we’ve provided technical advice to firms that has proved invaluable in enabling them to address resource constraints and continue to move forward on their circular journeys.

We also work to encourage behaviour change across the country, to shift citizens away from buying liner products towards circular alternatives – encouraging them to turn to these businesses for their needs.   

But we know that more can always be done. Businesses require ongoing support to expand the ecosystem of circular enterprises that’s taking shape across Scotland. This report will now set out what has proved effective in the past, and how to address the challenges that remain, so that we can continue to galvanize Scotland’s businesses in their circular efforts.