LIVE UPDATE: Scottish Resources Conference

Delivered in collaboration by CIWM, SEPA and Zero Waste Scotland, the Scottish Resources Conference (SRC) provides a vital platform to ask questions, share ideas and develop solutions as Scotland works to secure a sustainable future for all. Circular Online will be covering the event, bringing you live updates as they happen. Check back for more.


“Let’s fix capitalism”

Lorna Slater MSP, Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy, and Biodiversity, joined SRC to deliver the Ministerial Address, setting the policy scene for the day and updating delegates on the Scottish Government’s work in this area.

“I’m very keen to get rid of the word ‘waste’. It’s resources!” Ms Slater began. She said we have a job to change what society values and to “fix capitalism”.

When asked by a delegate in the Q&A session what she meant by this, Ms Slater said when she says “let’s fix capitalism”, she’s referring to how society measures success in that we’re currently in a system that prizes over-consumption and single-use culture.

I’m very keen to get rid of the word ‘waste’

She referred to a “prosperity agenda” and a “well-being economy” that redefines our economic system fundamentally.

Ms Slater confirmed Scotland’s deposit return scheme (DRS) for drink containers will go live in August next year (2023) and is intended to be a “game changer” for recycling in Scotland. She says the aim is for a 90% recycle rate.

She also said the DRS Will free up local authorities to concentrate on materials that aren’t currently recyclable because they will have fewer drinks containers to process.


The Circular Economy Bill and The Route Map: what they mean for Scotland

In the first panel session of the day, SRC delves into the Circular Economy Bill and The Route Map. These key pieces of policy will set out to transform the way the resources and waste management sector operates in Scotland in the coming years.

Panellists John Ferguson of RMAS, Dr Jane Beasley of Zero Waste Scotland and a member of the Zero Waste Unit, and Janet McVea, Head of the Scottish Government’s Zero Waste Unit, all took to the stage before answering delegate questions.

Janet McVea confirmed that final decisions have not yet been taken on The Routemap or Circular Economy Bill and won’t be until there has been further consideration and analysis.

When asked how we keep everyone engaged in the months and years ahead, she said it’s about having a sense of our shared goals and the need to understand and articulate the benefits not just for Scotland but also for business, highlighting the economic opportunities.

We spend a lot of time talking to ourselves

Dr Jane Beasley reiterated that there are financial benefits to be realised through greater focus on efficient resource consumption and optimising resource use and that, when talking with other sectors, the resources and waste sector needs to tailor the conversation to get buy-in.

She said the cost of living crisis could help with engagement in this manner if the economic angle can be used to “get people looking in our direction”.

“We spend a lot of time talking to ourselves,” she said, but the sector needs to get outside its comfort zone.

John Ferguson of RMAS said”: “We have come a long way and it seems to have taken a long time.” We need to speed up, he said, using a quote from Albert Einstein: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking used when we created them.”


“Think Circular”

In the Breakout Session, Think Circular, SRC explored the different options for achieving a circular economy in Scotland with NFU Scotland and a member of Scottish Government.

Nicki Souter, Resource Management Association Scotland, took us through some of new and future opportunities identified for Scotland.

New opportunities included developing smaller scale energy from waste (EfW) plants, distrusted and co-located with housing or industrial and business parks to drive district heat and power schemes, as well as developing smaller scale anaerobic digestion plants.

Other opportunities included establishing local and regionalised supply chains, and also developing reprocessing capacity for hazardous and specialist waste streams.

Ms Souter also revealed that future collaborative opportunities across sectors in Scotland include the introduction of an industrial symbiosis platform to enable knowledge exchange, encourage joint research and development and innovation across supply chains and the cross-sectoral movement of materials.

Influencing public sector procurement rule to increase the opportunities for local and regional suppliers, to enable the increased use to lower carbon products, was also identified. As was working with regulators to achieve end of waste status and exemptions to enable to reuse of materials.


Legislative drivers: EfW Review, The Landfill Ban and how infrastructure works with district heating

Perth Scotland

In the second panel session of the day, SRC explored the key pieces of legislation that will affect waste arrangements in Scotland.

Topics discussed included the Landfill Ban, how infrastructure can exploit district heating possibilities, what materials will need to be collected in the future and how to deal with plastic waste.

Panellists Mark Keast of General Manager of FCC, Dr Aidan Robson from the Scottish Government, Robin Baird of Cireco and Veronica Formosa-Hamilton from The Highland Council delivered a presentation before taking questions from the audience.

Dr Aidan Robson said that each of the proposed actions set out in A Route Map to 2025 requires partnership working and dedication to put into practice. He also remarked that he was struck by collaborative working in the sector.

Mark Keast said that a key part of EfW technology is its flexibility which enables it to produce heat or power. This makes it useful when considering low-carbon plans that are critical to achieving net zero. He emphasised that the plans required forward-thinking local authorities that engage with stakeholders.

Robin Baird posed the question of whether we are going to learn from past failures to establish what we need to do to achieve our goals.

A member of the audience asked the panel if anyone could explain what is being done to support local authorities in anticipation of the landfill ban.

Robson said that Zero Waste Scotland is working with local authorities with no current plan with the aim of fostering a more collaborative approach between authorities. As part of this approach, they’re providing consultancy support, such as legal and technical guidance.


The Plastics Problem


Robin Baird of Cireco focused on plastics and how we, as an industry, can make sure we collect and recycle more of it.

Baird talked SRC delegates through a Cireco plant that opened in 2020 to explain the problem with plastics and the possible solutions.

He explained a series of changes that were implemented in the facility, which included a front-end Westeria airlift at the upstream sorting phase that helps to remove larger film items.

Following the initial adjustments made, Cireco’s facility is on track to capture over 3000T of film and flexibles, over 316kg a week, this year – over 50% of the material previously in the residual waste stream. This is 3x more than the amount predicated by the Flexible Plastics Fund. “That was a surprise,” Baird said.

Don’t underestimate the public’s desire to get involved with helping to recycle plastics.

He went on to highlight the sheer volume of film the facility is processing. Baird explained that when you’re dealing with such a large amount of flexible plastics, you need multiple opportunities to capture it, which is factored into the sorting process in the plant.

“Of the plastics we process, liquid in PET bottles is the biggest problem. I’m pleasantly surprised by the lack of contamination on flexible plastics,” Baird said.

On collection and consumer communications, Baird explained what lessons can be learned and applied to other waste streams. He highlighted the impact of the media covering plastic in oceans, which allowed Cireco to offer a solution at the right time to engage with the public.

“Don’t underestimate the public’s desire to get involved with helping to recycle plastics.”


Bringing citizens on the circular journey


In this panel, SRC delegates heard from leading experts on the various aspects of behaviour change, including what works and what doesn’t.

Dr Isla Kapasi, Zero Waste Scotland – which Kapasi argues is a behaviour change organisation – explored the action-intention gap which is the space between our intentions and achieving our desired outcome.

She explained the critical component of behaviour change is understanding people’s intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.

An example she cited was that the highest contributor to people choosing to recycle e-waste is word of mouth. Once someone is told by someone they trust it’s safe and important to recycle WEEE, they’re more likely to change their behaviour.

Patrick Wiedemann, RECONOMY, says the organisation is helping many of the world’s biggest companies transition towards a circular business model.

He asks what changes behaviour. It has a strong cultural element, Wiedemann argues. “We must understand what cultural norms are and how we can use them to help encourage more positive behaviours.”

One long-term solution he put forward was to embed sustainability into thinking from an early age in school, so it becomes a habit and positive behaviour spreads throughout family networks.

We need to give people the tools to change their behaviour and enable them through infrastructure.

In the short term, he said that people want to understand the impact of changing their behaviour. “More specific and tangible results are better.”

He went on to explain what demotivates behaviour change. He highlighted 3 points:

  1. Too heavy marketing can put people off, people don’t want to feel like they’re being sold something.
  2. After doing the right thing as a citizen, they can’t see tangible results.
  3. Inconvenience.

“We need to give people the tools to change their behaviour and enable them through infrastructure.”

George Cole, Director at Resource Futures, argues that to help encourage citizens to go on a circular journey they need opportunity, motivation and capability.

To do this he says to start with the why. Why am I being asked to recycle something? Providing a tangible and specific answer to this point can encourage positive changes in behaviour.

Looking ahead to the future, Cole says the circular economy should be embedded in consumer markets so the sector doesn’t have to rely on convincing people. “This means we need to ensure the circular economy is cost-effective and convenient not only environmentally friendly.”


Keynote Session


In the Keynote of the Scottish Resources Conference, delegates heard from David Harris CEO of Circularity Scotland on the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS).

In his opening remarks, Harris said the ultimate goal of the scheme is to achieve a 90% return rate. He went on to explain that Circularity Scotland is a product of the DRS; created by industry to fulfil the role of scheme administrator.

“We’re an implementation organisation, our job is to implement policy effectively not to make policy.”

The organisation’s commitment to industry and society at large is to ensure an efficient flow of deposits between producers, retailers and consumers, Harris explained.

This involves ensuring collection and sorting operate at the lowest possible fee, determining and collecting fees producers contribute to the system, handling fees payable to return point operators and refining the DRS over time.

Harris revealed that Circularity Scotland forecasts 3 billion containers in scope per annum. He said the DRS is the largest circular economy intervention Scotland has seen and the potential benefits are very significant.

The scheme is scheduled to go live on the 16th of August 2023 and Harris was emphatic when he said the organisation is “absolutely committed” to this timeline.

We’re an implementation organisation, our job is to implement policy effectively not to make policy.

One potential issue Harris highlighted was if the scheme is extremely popular from day one. He explained that if consumers’ behaviour changed too quickly, there is the risk they will stockpile items which could lead to the system being overwhelmed when the launch date arrives.

“We don’t want consumers’ first encounter with DRS to be a rejection. Once the scheme is established then we can worry about behaviour change,” Harris explained.

However, he was quick to point out that behaviour change is key to the long-term success of the DRS. And it could also stimulate consumers to adopt wider circular economy principles.

Picking up the habit of returning containers may create other habits for reducing litter and other circular economy initiatives can capitalise on these habits, Harris argues.

“We’re not the policy. We are here to make the policy work for industry while delivering a DRS that moves Scotland towards a circular economy.”

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