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Thank You for Recycling

Monday, September 21, 2020 by Adrian Bond, Recycling Manager at Zero Waste Scotland

Thank You for Recycling by Adrian Bond, Recycling Manager at Zero Waste Scoland

       

Even a pandemic hasn’t stopped Scots recycling. Coronavirus has disrupted many aspects of our lives and recycling is no exception.  At the height of lockdown, local authority services were severely disrupted and demand for commercial services fell as businesses closed.  But many people continued to recycle, or they stored materials until services were reinstated, realising the value of our ‘waste’.

So ’Thank You for Recycling’ seems an appropriate theme for this year’s Recycle Week.  We are thanking the public for their efforts and the collection crews and recycling site staff for their ongoing, and often undervalued, work.

Despite all the changes to daily life, we still have to tackle many of the challenges we faced at the start of this year: to simplify recycling services; to make collections across the country more consistent; to explain what materials can and can’t be accepted for recycling; and to persuade those who could recycle more, to do so.  We now owe it to the public, and to our frontline staff, to develop even better, simpler, more consistent services.  We need to be able to explain, simply, what can be recycled and how.  Only then can we maximise the environmental and economic benefits that recycling offers.

Those benefits are potentially huge.  The carbon savings associated with recycling aluminium cans are massive.  Recycling plastic, in all its forms, reduces the demand for new oil-based products and keeps plastic in use and out of the oceans and the wider environment.  Similarly, by recycling more paper, textiles, glass, batteries and food waste we can drive down greenhouse gas emissions, keep our limited natural resources in use and reduce demand for raw materials.

Scotland can also benefit economically from recycling.  Collected materials have to be sorted, treated and processed to produce the feedstock for new products.  The more material we collect then the greater the incentive for reprocessors to invest in Scotland, putting money into local communities and creating jobs.   We already have significant glass reprocessing capacity and there are at least three plastic reprocessing plants in development.  The drive to attract investment in Scotland must continue to allow more material to be treated at home. 

As well as the economic uplift, boosting domestic reprocessing infrastructure reduces the need to export material for recycling abroad.   Too often, poorly sorted, or contaminated, material ends up in the wrong place, and we pass problems on to developing countries where we currently send much of our recycling. How great would it be to be able to say that Scotland takes responsibility for its own waste and deals with it in the right manner?

The past few months have been challenging for everyone, but the resource management industry has shown the resilience to support each other and the public.  People have continued to use those services and have taken the short-term disruption in their stride.  We don’t know how quickly life will return to normal, or what that normal may look like, but as we move forward and seek to grow the green economy, it is only right that we say Thank You for Recycling.

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