Scottish environment secretary Richard Lochhead’s opening address to the Scottish Resources Conference on Wednesday (7 October) declared an intention to introduce a formal food waste reduction target for Scotland – the first of its kind in Europe.
It was a speech which set out some of his government’s ambitions with respect to food waste and the circular economy.
“I don’t share the UK’s reluctance to play a leading role in food waste,” he said, explaining that food waste in Scotland has been reduced by 8% since 2009. There are now 1.46 million homes north of the border with a food waste collection service – “great progress”, he said, considering there were only a few thousand back in 2010.
The details of the new food waste targets are to be set out in a circular economy strategy document, for release later in the year. They are intended to “put Scotland at the forefront” of the fight against food waste, along with the US which recently released its own target of a 50% food waste reduction by 2030.
Lochhead’s address also praised the efforts made by Scottish local authorities with recycling – more than a third are now past the 50% recycling mark, and working towards a target of 60%. A key element of the strategy, he said, is the Household Recycling Charter, announced in June and intended to make it easier for people to recycle, with consistent systems and communications throughout the country. Local authorities having the option to sign-up.
“I want to congratulate local authorities for taking the initiative with this charter,” he said. In doing so they were “bravely moving beyond their own systems” and “working together for better outcomes”.
“We need to take a giant step forward now,” he continued, urging all local authorities to take this latest step. The circular economy not only assists with meeting environmental targets but also creates jobs and opportunities, he added. “I want people in Scotland to be as confident with the circular economy as they are with the 5p carrier bag charge,” he said, congratulating England for its recent adoption of the charge, adding: “you’ll grow to like it, as we do.”
Beyond carrier bags: More charges to come?
An audience question following the speech asked if he planned to introduce other taxes on other materials. There are no specific proposals at the moment, he said, “but the principal, I think, is a good one”. Other questions addressed issues such as the difficulties with putting biodegradeable bags through AD systems, and the protection of the Scottish dairy industry. On the latter point he bemoaned the reliance of so many retailers on dairy imports. “If you buy coffee at Starbucks or Costa [during the interval], ask them where the milk comes from… it’s not Scotland.”
Also announced at the conference were details of the first contracts for the Scottish Materials Brokerage Service, including long-term deals for glass recycling. The service is also expected to issue contracts for dry mixed recycling and residual waste treatment in the coming months, as well as other single stream recyclables like cans and plastic bottles.