Climate Week Scotland, which runs until Friday, October 5, is a timely reminder of the seriousness with which the country is taking the task of transitioning to a low-carbon economy.

Organised by the Sustainable Scotland Network, for public sector organisations, the message and events aim to highlight evidence-based action on sustainable development.

And if the need for urgent action to tackle areas such as hazardous disposal of household waste needed to be underlined further, the distressing scenes in Drowning in Plastic, a BBC documentary aired last Monday, focused on the calamitous effect that plastic detritus is having on marine life ranging from plankton to whales – and from Papua New Guinea to the US. Of course, the fight against climate change begins at home. The Carbon Metric report, a new study into Scotland’s carbon impact, shows that less waste and more recycling, especially of food waste, are crucial in reducing our impact on the environment.

Released in the recent Recycle Week 2018, it’s a timely reminder that everyone in Scotland has the chance to play a part in our response to climate change. Iain Gulland, Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland, commented: “Our Carbon Metric shows the crucial role householders can play in preventing waste and recycling more of their waste, particularly food waste, and how significant an impact that will have on reducing our climate changing emissions.”

The Carbon Metric was developed by Zero Waste Scotland to measure 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 and is a pioneering way to measure the carbon impact of our waste, not just the amount that is recycled.

In 2017, Scottish households reduced the amount of waste they produced, and recycled more of  their waste than ever, resulting in the lowest carbon impacts for household waste since the Carbon Metric began measuring in 2011.

For the first time, the Carbon Metric has been integrated into the official reporting on Scotland’s household waste data statistics published by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). It reflects the critical role the Carbon Metric has come to play in measuring and reducing the environmental impacts of Scotland’s waste, something that Terry A’Hearn, SEPA Chief Executive, has said it will “help us target our efforts to deliver One Planet Prosperity”.

Food waste contributes more to Scotland’s waste carbon impacts than any other waste type, so it’s important that we avoid wasting food, and recycle the waste we can’t avoid. Food waste comprised 16% of household waste in 2017. Despite an overall reduction in household food waste, Scots recycled more food waste than ever before, up 7% from just one year earlier.

In total, Scottish households prevented almost 100,000 tonnes of food waste from going to landfill through food waste recycling.

The increase in recycling rates is due to more household food waste recycling collections being rolled out by Scotland’s local authorities – good news in terms of preventing food waste, which could be turned into energy through anaerobic digestion, from heading to landfill sites where it emits harmful greenhouse gases.

Zero Waste Scotland has also published the 2016 Carbon Metric, which contains data on both household and commercial and industrial waste. Importantly, as it includes all data for 2016 this report demonstrates the disproportionate impact of household waste on the carbon impacts of Scotland’s total waste.

While household waste only made up 25% of Scotland’s waste by weight, it accounted for 55% of total waste carbon impacts. This makes preventing and recycling household waste especially important. The Carbon Metric shows the progress that is being made in Scotland on recycling and the real impact that is having on tackling climate change.

Those changes come in part from improvements and extensions to household recycling services offered by local authorities, but it’s also testament to the extra efforts that people in Scotland are going to, to make sure more is being recycled. If we are to make meaningful headway in tackling climate change, the Carbon Metric shows that waste prevention and recycling are crucial, and in that, each one of us has an important role to play.


In association with ...

The Scottish Environment 
Protection Agency (SEPA)

A non-departmental public body of the Scottish Government oversees environmental regulation, monitors and reports on the state of the environment, raises awareness of environmental issues, and resolves environmental harms.

Zero Waste Scotland
A publicly-funded organisation working towards a society where resources are valued and nothing is wasted. It attempts to influence and enable change by gathering evidence, supporting positive projects and providing technical advice and training.

Low Carbon Scotland
Organiser of conferences and events aimed at addressing the current carbon reduction position, enabling those leading and driving policies and proposals to share their vision, and highlighting Scotland as the best place in which to invest in low-carbon businesses.

Interested in becoming a Climate for Change partner? Contact Stephen McTaggart on 0141 302 6137.

l The Herald’s Climate for Change initiative supports efforts being made by the Scottish Government with key organisations and campaign partners. Throughout the year we will provide a forum in The Herald newspaper, online at and in Business HQ magazine, covering news and significant developments in this increasingly crucial area.