The comments come in the wake of the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) yesterday (May 24) publishing the latest quarterly data for municipal waste and recycling rates, which covered the third quarter of 2010/11 (October to December 2010).
During the third quarter of 2010/11, Scottish councils achieved a 34% recycling and composting rate. This represents a very slight increase on the 33.8% achieved in the same quarter in 2009/10.
And the figures, which are based on data submitted by all 32 councils in the country, also show that a 37.8% recycling and composting rate was achieved for the year ending December 2010. The rolling year model aggregates the four previous quarters and is intended to eliminate seasonal fluctuations.
And, while the 37.8% figure is an improvement on the 36% achieved in the 2009 calendar year, it is still some way short of the 40% goal outlined as the first major target of the Scottish Government’s Zero Waste Plan, which was published in June 2010 (see letsrecycle.com story).
It had been anticipated that Scotland would struggle to achieve the 40% goal, as recycling and composting rates had begun to slow from quarter-to-quarter and, in May 2010, SEPA went as far as to say that the targets would be challenging (see letsrecycle.com story).
This message was reiterated this week by a Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Ten years ago, before we started on our journey towards zero waste, few thought 20% recycling was possible, so achieving almost double that is excellent progress.
“The recycling targets set out in Scotland’s Zero Waste Plan are deliberately challenging, but they represent the direction of where we as a society need to go.”
The spokeswoman added that many householders in the country now “actively recycle” and said that many local authorities are continuing to make “great efforts towards zero waste” despite currently experiencing a “drastic budget squeeze”.
The year-ending figures indicate that there has been a reduction in the amount of material collected for recycling in the country, which fell by 85,942 tonnes to 3,129,821 tonnes between the year ending December 2009 and the year ending December 2010.
Commenting on the fall in available material, Gary Walker, waste unit manager at SEPA’s national waste team, said: “The fact that more waste is being composted and recycled at the same time as less waste is being and less waste is being landfilled, shows that the concept of reduce, reuse, recycle is increasingly becoming part of Scotland’s way of life.”
Elsewhere, the figures show that the amount of material landfilled in Scotland fell from 1,959,022 tonnes for the 2009 calendar year to 1,850,716 tonnes for 2010 calendar year – a fall of 108,306 tonnes over the 12 months.
Furthermore, the amount of biodegradable municipal waste, such as garden and food waste, sent to landfill fell from 1,117,438 tonnes in 2009 to 1,109,689 tonnes for the 2010 calendar year.
On individual council performance, Clackmannanshire council achieved the highest recycling and composting rate for the rolling year with a 48.9%. This was ahead of Falkirk with 47.4% and Fife, which achieved a 47% rate.
At the other end of the table, the Shetland Islands (19.7%), Eilean Siar (20.7%) and Glasgow city council (23.8%) continued to be comprise the lowest performing councils.