Zero Waste Scotland’s (ZWS) Waste Composition Analysis reveals that 52% of what is put in general waste bins could have been recycled, equivalent to 219kg per household annually.
Food waste is the biggest offender, according to the analysis, accounting for more than 30% of the waste being unnecessarily sent for disposal. Other items frequently found in general waste include plastic drink bottles, tubs and trays, paper and card, and aluminium cans, ZWS found.
The statistics were derived from an analysis of 15 Scottish councils’ kerbside waste collections between 2021-23, which was then used to calculate national estimates – the last time a similar study was conducted was in 2013-2015.
Between 2013-15 and 2021-23, the overall quantity of household residual waste collected at the kerbside reduced by approximately 64,000 tonnes (6%), from 1.13 million tonnes per annum in 2013-15 to 1.07 million tonnes per annum in 2021-23.
The report excludes household waste collected at non-kerbside locations, such as recycling points and household waste recycling centres.
ZWS says the Waste Composition Analysis aims to provide information that can help shape waste reduction efforts as Scotland transitions to a circular economy.
The analysis comes during Recycle Week (16-22 October 2023), Recycle Now’s flagship annual event. ZWS also has an online Recycling Sorter Tool, which allows people to check what bin is the right one for their recycling and other waste, as this can vary by council area.
This report shows it’s more important than ever for people to check what goes where before disposing of their waste.
Chief Executive of Zero Waste Scotland, Iain Gulland, commented: “With more than half of the material found in general waste bins being recyclable, this report shows it’s more important than ever for people to check what goes where before disposing of their waste.
“By making this small change, we can all help to cut carbon emissions, ease the pressure on our planet, and speed up Scotland’s journey to fully embracing a circular economy.”
Scottish households put 1.8 million tonnes of material into kerbside collections (residual and recycling combined) per annum, according to the analysis.
Food waste, paper and cardboard, garden waste, and glass waste made up nearly 1.2 million tonnes, or approximately 66% of the total. Food waste made up the largest single waste type at approximately 440,000 tonnes, just over 24% of the total.
From the analysis carried out during the current programme, ZWS found that Scottish households correctly recycled just under 650,000 tonnes per annum of common waste types at the kerbside, or 36% of all kerbside waste collected.
Using data from its Waste Composition Analysis, ZWS estimates that recycling the 554,111 tonnes of material put in residual waste bins annually would save the equivalent of 499,554 tonnes CO2e.