Concern for the environment has never been greater and the way we use our natural resources is firmly in the public spotlight.

The concept of a circular economy is one way to minimise the strain on natural resources and help eradicate waste by keeping resources and products in use for as long as possible.

Scotland is at the cutting edge of developing a more circular economy. This year we will host the Circular Economy Hotspot Scotland, showcasing to an international audience how our cities, regions and businesses are capitalising on the benefits of being circular and how they can tap into opportunities for innovation and increased profitability, whilst addressing the issue of resource pressures.

A circular economy can be explained in simple terms as “make, use, remake” as opposed to “make, use, dispose.”

This is achieved by designing products smartly with their whole life cycle in mind.

Scotland’s approach is compelling. We know that solutions lie in the pursuit of the basic principles of reduce, reuse and recycle, and that we can apply these principles to every aspect of our lives.

Evidence suggests that adopting the circular economy could be worth up to £1.5bn to Scotland’s economy and save around 11 million tonnes of greenhouse gases per year by 2050.

We are already making great progress in Scotland across many areas – our 5p carrier bag charge cut single-use bags by 80 per cent; we have reduced household food waste; dramatically improved domestic recycling; and energy and water efficiency schemes are enthusiastically used in both homes and offices across the country.

We are a unique case study in Europe – a small, nimble country committed to acting. The Scottish Government has placed the circular economy at the core of Scotland’s Economic Strategy and Manufacturing Action Plan, and its Making Things Last strategy highlights areas with the greatest potential to deliver economic, environmental and social benefits.

Around Scotland, green ideas are being taken up by entrepreneurs. Collaborations between business and academia are flourishing through the Scottish Institute for Remanufacture, and re-use hubs in Bute, Edinburgh and Dingwall are transforming economies of scale in reuse and repair.

Our circular initiatives are helping to stimulate progress internationally and as a result Scotland has been chosen to host the Hotspot, a major international trade mission from 30 October to 1 November. Scotland was also a winner in the Circular Economy Nations and Regions category last year at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

We’re currently writing our new Corporate Plan, which will reflect the importance of our work on a global scale. We need to think globally when acting locally and be bold in sharing the progress that we’re making, leading others to success. The Sustainable Development Goals are a perfect framework for us to do that and we’re taking steps to connect these to our operations here in Scotland.

I’m proud to say Scotland is already contributing greatly to these goals .

  • By 2030 the UN wants to double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency
    • Scotland has an ambitious target to reduce total energy consumption by 12% by 2020.
  • By 2030 the UN aims to improve global resource efficiency in consumption and production
    • Scotland has committed to a 15% reduction in waste between 2012 and 2025.
  • By 2030, the UN wants to halve per capita global food waste
    • Scotland was the first country to commit to a food waste reduction target. By 2025 we plan to have 33% less food waste than in 2012.
  • By 2030, the UN wants to substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse
    • Scotland has targets in place to achieve a 15% reduction in waste generation between 2012 and 2025 and aims to recycle 70% of all waste 2025.

Becoming sustainable is at the heart of everything we do here at Zero Waste Scotland – there are so many exciting things happening in our pursuit of becoming a sustainable nation and I look forward to Scotland, and our international partners, reaping the benefits of our philosophy that eventually sees nothing going to waste.