CRITICS have raised concerns Scotland is harming the global environment and putting wildlife at risk after it emerged a record amount of waste has been exported outside its borders.

Figures show more than 1.5 million tonnes of rubbish left the country in 2016, up from 1.3 million in the previous year.

This includes 806,000 tonnes of waste which was sent to the rest of the UK, 680,956 tonnes which was exported to Europe and 70,653 which was sent further afield.

The export figures, published by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), make up 14.4 per cent of the total waste produced in Scotland for 2016, the last year for which information is available.

Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron, who highlighted the statistics, said they represented a “major missed opportunity for Scotland”.

He added: “If the rest of the UK, the EU, and even far-flung parts of the world can deal with our waste, why can’t we?

“It could provide jobs and further recycling and energy-generating opportunities, and ensure we’re wholly responsible for the waste we produce as a country.

“All political parties need to get their heads together and find a way to improve this situation.

“It’s simply unsustainable to continue washing our hands of millions of tonnes of waste each year.

“And what’s more, when this waste is exported beyond the continent, there’s a fairly good chance it ends up in rivers and seas.

“With all we know about the damage that’s being caused to the environment right now, it’s incumbent on all parties in the Scottish Parliament to find a solution here.”

Figures show Scotland exported only 385,907 tonnes of rubbish in 2004. But just four years later, this had increased to more than a million tonnes.

And despite a drop in the overall waste produced from 11.6 million tonnes in 2015 to 10.79 million tonnes, the rate of exports has gone up.

Experts raised concerns some of the rubbish could end up in in the ocean, contributing to global pollution.

Malcolm Todd, former managing director of Shore Recycling, said: “These figures show that the amount of waste being exported from Scotland is increasing, as we fail to get to grips with a waste management crisis.

“Some of this waste might not be properly managed at its destination point and could, for example, end up in waterways in the far east, contributing to the plastic pollution problem we are trying to tackle across the globe.

“We can’t simply keep on sending our waste abroad, and must accelerate the building of a circular economy in Scotland.

“As well as driving up recycling rates, we must be diligent in what happens to the residual waste that stays in Scotland.

“This includes recognising the need for viable alternatives to landfill such as waste-to-energy plants which can treat the waste to generate heat and power for local communities.”

It comes after it emerged huge quantities of household rubbish continue to be dumped in Scottish landfill sites, with 1.13m tonnes buried in 2016.

Scotland has introduced a statutory ban on sending biodegradable municipal waste to landfill, which will come into effect in 2021.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said Scotland led the way in its "ambitious and challenging recycling and landfill waste reduction targets, both of which are more ambitious than EU targets".

She added: "There is a legitimate global market for waste and recycling, but we are keen to see the development of recycling and reprocessing capability within Scotland.

“The development of our deposit return scheme is one way in which we are trying to boost the flow of high quality recyclable material to create a market for domestic reprocessing capability.”