Waste carbon emissions at lowest ever level, says report
Carbon emissions associated with waste have reached their lowest level since official recording began, according to Zero Waste Scotland.
The latest figures available show emissions in 2018 dropped 11% year-on-year, making them the lowest ever recorded since 2011, the group said.
Reports in the Carbon Footprint of Scotland’s Waste show that 10.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent were produced in 2018.
This is 30% lower than the figure recorded in 2011.
In 2017 and 2018, more food waste – one of the most significant emitters of carbon – was recycled as opposed to being sent to landfill or incineration, the report said.
Despite making up just 5% of waste by weight in 2018, food waste was still responsible for one quarter of Scotland’s total waste carbon footprint, it added.
Dr Ramy Salemdeeb, report co-author and environmental analyst at Zero Waste Scotland, said: “We are in a better place than ever before in terms of managing our waste.
“The carbon impact of what we waste has reduced by almost a third since we began monitoring.
“Understanding the whole-life carbon impacts of waste allows us to introduce measures that target carbon-intensive materials to achieve the highest carbon savings and consequently contribute to Scotland’s efforts to meet the 2045 net-zero emissions target.”
The report notes that the most significant factors in lowering 2018’s carbon figure were producing less waste in general and an increase in recycling.
Around four-fifths (80%) of Scotland’s carbon footprint comes from all the goods, materials and services which we produce, use and often throw out after just one use.
This is the single greatest cause of the climate crisis, the report said.
However, Zero Waste Scotland’s chief executive Iain Gulland said further carbon savings can still be achieved.
Mr Gulland said accelerating the transition to a circular economy and eliminating the generation of waste will help to reach the 15% national waste reduction target by 2025.
He said: “We can do a lot more when it comes to recycling our waste.
“Every percentage increase can cut tens of thousands of tonnes off Scotland’s carbon footprint.
“Waste prevention has even greater environmental benefits.
“For instance, in the construction sector, which is the single largest contributor of waste in Scotland, reusing building materials from old sites to build new ones can dramatically reduce the carbon impacts of our buildings.
“Meanwhile in the home, food waste and single-use packaging both have major carbon impacts.
“If we buy smarter and make greater use of what we already have, we will reduce the carbon we send into the atmosphere and our impact on the planet.
“Fully embracing the circular economy and doing things differently will allow us to live in a way that enjoys the best of a 21st century lifestyle whilst protecting our environment.”