COVID impacts ‘likely to be responsible’ for the 2.9 percentage point reduction in household recycling rates from 2019 to 42%, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) says, as it publishes the latest household recycling figures for Scotland.
Scotland’s overall household waste recycling rate reduced from 44.9% to 42% from 2019, and 2.5 percentage points up from the 39.5% achieved in 2011.
It is likely that COVID-19 impacts are the main driver behind this reduction, SEPA says.
The total amount of Scottish household waste recycled was 1.02 million tonnes, a decrease of 66,000 tonnes (6.1%) from 2019.
Iain Gulland, Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland, commented on the figures, saying there was ‘little doubt the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic hit recycling efforts in 2020′.
As we move out of the initial shock to services caused by the pandemic, we need to redouble our collective efforts to increase the national recycling rate, with improved infrastructure and continued engagement with householders
‘In particular, the closure of recycling centres in many areas seems to have had the greatest impact,’ he said.
‘The good news is that the volume of materials collected for recycling at the kerbside increased, showing that there is a keen appetite to recycle more amongst householders.
‘There was a huge collective effort from local authority staff in all departments, as well as private sector resource management companies, to keep the show on the road during the strictest lockdowns, and periods of heavy staff absence.
‘This hard work was very much appreciated by the public. Without all of these efforts, the recycling rate may have been more severely affected.
‘As we move out of the initial shock to services caused by the pandemic, we need to redouble our collective efforts to increase the national recycling rate, with improved infrastructure and continued engagement with householders.’
The figures show there was a reduction in the amount of some waste materials recycled, such as construction and soils (reduction of 26,000 tonnes, 14.8%) and composting of vegetal wastes (reduction of 17,000 tonnes, 5.7%), while there was an increase in the amount of other waste materials recycled, such as such as glass wastes (15,000 tonnes, 14.4%) and plastic wastes (8.3%, 5,000 tonnes).
The amount of Scottish household waste landfilled in 2020 was 660,000 tonnes, a reduction of 98,000 tonnes (13.0%) from 2019, and a reduction 794,000 tonnes (54.6%) from 2011.
This is the ninth consecutive decrease in household waste landfilled. This decrease is primarily due to more waste being diverted from landfill to incineration and in part less waste being generated.
Whilst It’s positive that for a ninth consecutive year we see a move from landfill, the latest data does reflect the realism of the public health emergency.
For 2020, the total amount of Scottish household waste managed by other diversion from landfill was 748,000 tonnes, an increase of 171,000 tonnes (29.7%) from 2019 and an increase of 625,000 tonnes (508%) from 2011.
This includes waste incinerated, incinerator outputs recycled, and organic material recycled that does not meet quality standards.
2020 data reflects a continued downward trajectory since 2011 in Scotland’s household waste carbon impact. The carbon impact of Scottish household waste generated and managed in 2020 was 5.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (TCO2e), which is the equivalent to 1.00 TCO2e per person.
This was a decrease of 225,000 TCO2e from 2019, and a reduction of 1.33 million TCO2e since 2011. This is largely due to increased recycling for high impact waste materials as well as reductions in waste generated and reduced landfilling of biodegradable waste.
Terry A’Hearn, Chief Executive of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, said: ‘Last month, the world came to Glasgow to agree global action on the climate emergency. The message was clear that together, as counties, companies, or communities – we all have a role to play.
‘How we use resources in our homes, workplaces, public services and private sector can have a real impact on Scotland’s environment.
‘Whilst It’s positive that for a ninth consecutive year we see a move from landfill, the latest data does reflect the realism of the public health emergency.
‘What’s important is not the past, but what we do next. We’ve shown that by working together, we can rise to the challenge of a healthcare emergency. We need now to show that we can do this again in tackling the climate crisis.’