GOVERNMENT-funded Zero Waste Scotland has warned the nation's waste export is "unacceptable" and is creating more environmental damage.

It comes as the Herald on Scotland can reveal that Scotland is completely reliant on facilities abroad and in other parts of the UK for recycling of steel.

In a bold overview, the not-for-profit environmental organisation, which is grant-funded by ministers to support delivery of a circular economy strategy based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, has sounded its alarm bells after the Herald on Scotland revealed that the nation exports three tonnes of waste every minute.

We revealed that the nation is having to export nearly all its throwaway plastic waste as a “staggering” 1.7 million tonnes of rubbish are exported for other countries to deal with.

Figures show that nearly 15 per cent of all our waste has to leave the country has raised fresh questions over Scotland’s dreams of a green revolution and the tens of thousands of jobs it was predicted to create.

READ MORE: 'Unacceptable' - Scotland should not be exporting its waste elsewhere, says Zero Waste Scotland

It has now emerged that a new study shows that of the 207,427 Scottish jobs (207,427) linked to the circular economy, some 7.1% (14,807) relate to recycling.

The analysis by Zero Waste Scotland and Circle Economy found that most circular jobs in Scotland were concentrated in south-western and eastern regions, together accounting for more than 75% of all circular Scottish jobs.

And it also reveals that every year over 500,000 tonnes of scrap steel worth £180m is exported because it is "completely reliant" on facilities 'abroad' - including the UK.

The reports warns that this is "likely to increase significantly" over the coming decades due to the increasing decommissioning of oil and gas assets.

Increasing steel recycling by locating an Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) plant in Scotland would boost the economy and has the potential to create 180 direct and 1,000 indirect jobs, the study said.

READ MORE: 'Unacceptable' - Scotland should not be exporting its waste elsewhere, says Zero Waste Scotland

It pointed out that the value of secondary steel made from scraps is three to four times higher than the price of scrap.

But it said that a "key barrier" to 'reshoring' steel recycling to Scotland was the high electricity prices, as energy consumption required to melt scrap steel is presently "substantial".

Zero Waste Scotland, the hugely influential campaign group whose controlling membership includes Scottish ministers and Zero Waste's six non-executive directors, has said the rubbish export cannot continue.

Over a year ago, Zero Waste Scotland's chief executive Iain Gulland warned that there was "a pressing need" to consider imposing restrictions on plastic waste exports and a "clear ambition" to reprocess all our plastic waste here in Scotland.

And he said that need remains.

"We shouldn’t be exporting plastic or any other waste for recycling elsewhere. It’s unacceptable that the mess we’re creating is being passed on to other countries where the environmental and social damage which that inflicts can be worse," he told the Herald on Sunday in a new analysis.

"As a nation, our number one goal should be to reduce the amount of needless materials, including plastic, which we use and waste in the first place. Achieving this means making better use of the plastic products we do need, by reprocessing them here in Scotland.

"That will not only significantly reduce waste and the emissions waste creates globally – it will also create much-needed, sustainable Scottish jobs. Exporting our waste means we’re exporting those valuable jobs prospects.

"So, this vast amount of wasted material should also be front and centre as we forge the green recovery to overcome Covid and the climate crisis."

His concerns were highlighted as one documentary showed vast stockpiles of abandoned plastic waste being found in Malaysia on the end of a jungle.

The fact that the plastic sent for recycling had come from the UK "illustrated starkly that this is is not a distant problem which we can turn a blind eye to as if it is nothing to do with us," he said in a separate analysis last year.

"It was an uncomfortable public ‘outing’ of our collective failure to deal with our own plastic waste effectively and solve a problem which has literally been building up for years, both here and on the other side of the world," he said.

Mr Gulland visited Indonesia in 2018 as part of an EU circular economy delegation, and says he saw at first-hand the "damage our global addiction to single use plastics" is doing in Asia.

"But my abiding memory from that visit is of their reply when we asked what else we could do to help, as they said simply: ‘Please stop sending us your plastics'," he said.

We now export nearly four-and-a-half times more waste from our borders than we did in 2004.


READ MORE: Friends of the Earth Scotland uncovered plans for the country to burn at least an extra one million tonnes of  household waste each year, threatening recycling targets

And of the 73,361 tonnes of plastic waste that was recycled by the nation, nearly all (98%) had to be shipped outside of Scotland.

The Scottish Government, in response to the Herald on Sunday revelations said it wants to process more waste within Scotland, regarding the 15% that is processed elsewhere as a "lost economic opportunity"

SEPA figures show that nearly 1.7m of the 11.5m tonnes of waste produced in Scotland was exported to be dealt with elsewhere - . Some 1.3m tonnes was waste for recycling.

That has meant that some 15 million tonnes of waste has left the country since 2007, when SNP took power.

Some 910,403 tonnes went elsewhere in the UK in 2018, with a further 675,157 was exported to Europe, while 77,343 tonnes went further than Europe.

Lst month, Zero Waste Scotland and the Scottish Government allocated more than £820,000 in grants to waste management firms across the country to adapt in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

A total of 40 businesses, covering 105 sites, were to receive funding to upgrade infrastructure and equipment.

Zero Waste Scotland, funded by the Scottish Government and the European Regional Development Fund says the upgrades will improve environmental performance and sustainability at the sites, while implementing controls to prevent the spread of the virus.