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What is the carbon metric?

06 Mar 23 3 minute read

The Carbon Metric is a powerful tool to fight climate change.

In the Carbon Metric, Scotland has developed a ground-breaking tool in the fight against global climate change. The Scottish Carbon Metric measures the whole-life carbon impacts of Scotland’s waste, from resource extraction and manufacturing emissions, right through to waste management emissions, regardless of where in the world these impacts occur. After all, climate change is a global problem.

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The Carbon Metric shows how reducing our waste, and managing what waste remains in a more sustainable way, is critical to the global fight against climate change. 

Carbon Metric - Lifecycle emissions of waste

The Carbon Metric quantifies the complete lifecycle impacts of more than 30 different common waste materials, providing policy makers and business leaders with an alternative to weight-based waste measurement, and allowing them to identify and focus specifically on those waste materials with the highest carbon impacts and greatest potential carbon savings. Scotland’s 33% per capita food waste reduction target is an example of a policy informed by the Carbon Metric.

Carbon Metric - The Circular Economy

As Scotland continues to transition towards a more circular economy, the Carbon Metric is helping to measure our progress, proving that sustainable waste and resource policy can deliver major emissions savings across all economic sectors. 

Why use the carbon metric?

Producing materials which are then wasted has a significant environmental impact. By reducing waste and managing resources better, we can live more sustainably.

Using the carbon metric instead of weight we get a more complete picture of the carbon impacts of our waste. It is also easier for organisations to evaluate the benefits of preventing and recycling waste, and helps identify which materials are causing the most damage to the environment.

As a consumption based carbon accounting approach, the carbon metric includes the carbon impacts across the whole life cycle of a product, not only the emissions which occur in Scotland. This means we can see how Scotland’s waste impacts on the environment globally rather than just in Scotland. 

Carbon Metric - Measuring Waste

If we implement Scotland’s current waste policies we can reduce our carbon impact by over 20% from 2011 to 2025.