By Tim Rotheray

AS we start to emerge into a post-Covid world, we can’t help but reflect on our environment. Covid-19 has starkly revealed that some of our everyday lives have clear measurable impacts. A desire to Build Back Better, to restore our economy but also protect our planet and create green jobs has grown. With a recent BBC poll finding that 70 per cent of people think climate change is as serious as Covid-19, it’s vital we listen to what they want.

Key workers in recycling and waste management have performed an essential service during the pandemic and now, the sector so vital to driving a better environment, must answer the demand to drive a greener recovery.

Even during such a devastating crisis, or perhaps because of it, we must think again about the waste we produce. We must drive resource re-use, end waste exports and divert from landfill to achieve a zero-waste economy.

For Viridor, the key to unlocking this change is to see waste as a resource, and not as rubbish; turning packaging and products back into new products which are reused here in Scotland. This could create new skilled jobs while driving down waste and carbon emissions. Making sure waste is truly valuable is key to ensuring what we discard does not escape the recycling net, going on to harm our environment.

Last week we launched our vision of how we might make build back better a reality in Scotland. A Scottish Circular Economy and Innovation Park. A site dedicated to moving towards a zero-waste economy where our waste is reprocessed into new materials to be reused in Scotland. A site that brings major new investment and green jobs with a better environment. A site that meets the hopes and expectations of the Scottish people.

But this vision is far bigger than one company. This is why we brought together 150 people in this sector, including Scotland’s Minister for Trade, Ivan McKee; Sepa CEO Terry A’Hearn, Scottish Enterprise, Zero Waste Scotland, Heriot-Watt University and Glasgow Chamber of Commerce. Innovating to make a zero-waste economy, securing Scottish investment, creating green jobs can only be done if everyone works together.

Mr McKee noted the “time had come” for Scotland to be clear about the infrastructure investment required to deliver the world-leading circular economy it is committed to. This is crucial. Recycling and reprocessing of plastics, glass, paper and card does not happen without a significant investment. This sentiment and ambition were matched by the Princess Royal who, in a video message recorded specifically for the event, noted that investing in the circular economy is key to “giving our young people the opportunity to play a major role in the world they will inherit”.

Time and again, people focused the opportunity we have to ensure Scotland emerges from this crisis with a brighter future. Too many Scottish resources are being lost to export along with the investment and jobs that goes with it. If we stand back and respond to what people want, this crisis could spur a truly sustainable economy and ensure the recycling sector remains more relevant than ever.

Investment in the crucial recycling infrastructure needed to create a zero-waste economy and retain our resources in Scotland cannot be achieved overnight nor by any one organisation. Now is the time to start working together, to define the skills and innovation required and to invest in the future to ensure we emerge from this crisis better and stronger.

Tim Rotheray is Viridor Director of Innovation and Regulation