This year’s Scottish Resources Conference (SRC) was held in the beautiful city of Perth and was a packed two days of intense debate and thought-leadership. Here, Circular Online’s digital editor Darrel Moore shares his ten takeaway messages.
This year’s Scottish Resources Conference takes place at a time of uncertainty about so many things, politically speaking. But what was not uncertain was the clear focus and dedication the conference revealed, both in the resources sector (Scotland and the UK) and the wider-environmental sector as a whole.
With this in mind, here are ten standout things I took away from #SRC19.
In the keynotes session on the first day of the conference, Scottish minister Mairi Gougeon announced the Scottish Government’s intention to consult on raising the country’s plastic bag charge from 5p to 10p.
She said this was to increase the incentive to use sustainable options. Gougeon also announced the Scottish Government will also look into adding textiles to the list of materials that must be collected separately in the country.
On the charges for single-use plastic carrier bags, Northern Ireland’s Janice Harris from DAERA, revealed later that over the five years since Northern Ireland first implemented its levy, over 1bn bags have been removed from circulation.
The great DRS bake-off
In the first day’s breakout session, the subject of Scotland’s proposed deposit return scheme (DRS) was tackled in. Zero Waste Scotland’s Jill Farrell told delegates that nobody wants a DRS that’s “half-baked” as the implementation period of 2021 was called into question by Bryan McCluskey from the Natural Source Waters Association.
He said there wasn’t enough time to get infrastructure in place, calling the task “impossible”. One delegate, however, said Lithuania put a DRS in place in just six months and that Scotland isn’t moving fast enough. Jill, however, said she “stands behind” the approach the Scottish Government is taking.
Chief executive of the Industry Council for Packaging & the Environment Paul Vanston said producer responsibility can only work really well with “citizen responsibility” in a breakout workshop that aimed at “unpacking” extended producer responsibility (EPR).
Producer responsibility can only work really well with “citizen responsibility”
We will need something to deal with the 25% of the population and businesses to bring them to “opting it” to the circular economy, he said.
A billion hectares of land can be “freed” for things like tree planting by reducing food waste, said Professor Dave Reay from the University of Edinburgh, citing the Committee for Climate Change’s recent report into achieving net zero carbon.
He was part of the final panel session one day one, which looked at “The future of food waste in Scotland” in the face of Scotland’s commitment to reducing its contribution by 33% by 2025. Reay said reducing food waste is “fundamental” to reaching net zero.
One delegate asked whether veganism was the answer to solving the climate emergency. In line with the Committee for Climate Change finding, the panel conceded an overall reduction in meat consumption would have a significant impact.
Food for thought
If food waste were a country it would be the third biggest carbon emitter in the world. The third biggest carbon contributing country is India, according to 2016 figures, so that should give you any idea of the scale.
Environmental journalist, Maxine Perella, who was live tweeting from the event (@greendipped) said on #ScotRes19: “Takeaway messages for me: Climate and waste policy becoming increasingly interlinked, and upstream interventions starting to supersede downstream (end of pipe) ones …”
Doug Allan, award-winning natural history photographer during his keynote address said we need to stop talking about climate change and instead talk about climate “breakdown”. “Breakdown”, he says, is much more emphatic than simple “change”.
He went on to say a new economic model was needed in order to mitigate the impacts of #climatebreakdown. He cited the “doughnut” model, which outlines the essential elements such as climate and environment that should not be impacted by economic growth.
One delegate took to Twitter to tweet: “My new opinion of who is really needed to help tackle our #waste and #climatechange issue is not scientists and env experts… its economists, behaviour change experts, and marketing professionals who will be the saviours of the planet! Ditch GDP and sell the message!”
What do humans and beer have in common? (no, this isn’t a joke)
As humans we’re not that different to yeast in the fermentation process of making alcohol – the yeast is killed by its own waste product, said Waste Aid UK’s Mike Webster as he spoke about the health benefits of simple waste collections in developing countries.
Did you know that in Bo, Sierra Leone, malaria dropped by 50% as soon as a waste collection system had been put in place?
There’s more at cost-a than profit
Did you can now order a Costa coffee by delivery? No, I didn’t either. But apparently this type of service is growing in popularity. According to Hubbub’s Trewin Restorick in the breakout session on “Consumer Behaviour – storm in a coffee cup’, one of the highest uses of this services is to people’s homes at 11am on a Saturday morning.
This is the scale of the “convenience challenge” that we’re facing in society, Trewin said as he highlighted the recurring theme of challenging the established “throwaway culture”.
Also in the consumer behaviour session, Keep Cup’s Chris Baker said its reusable cups help divert 5m cups from landfill across the world every day, and Hubbub’s Trewin said they are set to invest in a variety of different ways to get reusable coffee cup use from 5% to 10%.
An important message that came from this session was that we need to be careful about having so many “reusable items” in circulation that they become disposable simply because they have flooded the market.