Valuable resources locked up in business waste


Resources which could enhance Scotland’s economy are mixed up in waste produced by Scottish businesses, according to the report, The Composition of Mixed Waste from Scotland Retail, Education and Health and Social Work Businesses.

Published by Zero Waste Scotland, it is the first detailed analysis of commercial waste in Scotland.


The report examines mixed waste sent to landfill from key three sectors, retail, education, and health and social work, which are responsible for producing more than 50 per cent of Scotland’s total mixed commercial waste. Over a quarter could be widely recycled and more than half is potentially recyclable.

Food, paper and card were the most common types of material in mixed waste bins across the sectors. Other waste materials suitable for recycling such as glass, plastic and cans appeared in lower quantities.

The research shows that although three quarters of businesses report that they recycle or reuse some of their business waste, there are opportunities to do more and encourage people to use recycling facilities as well as opportunities to introduce new recycling collections.

The Scottish motor, wholesale and retail sectors throw away nearly £30 million of whole or unused food into their mixed bins. Education establishments throw away over 120 tonnes of unused paper to landfill per year, which is worth around £460,000.

While the Scottish health and social sectors send more than 30,000 tonnes of paper waste to landfill. Over 80 per cent is recyclable.

Having to dispose of over 372,000 tonnes of mixed waste has cost businesses across all three sectors more than £20 million in tax last year. New regulations will require all businesses in Scotland to separate paper and card, plastic, metal and glass by 2014. Businesses producing over 50kg of food waste per week will also need to separate material for recycling. Businesses producing between 5kg and 50kg will follow suit from 2016.

Zero Waste Scotland director Iain Gulland said: “While many businesses already recycle so much of their waste, there are still valuable materials ending up in landfill. Given these findings, it is clear that new waste regulations could boost our economy by getting valuable materials out of landfill and into productive uses.

“Reducing waste in the first place is a quick, easy win for businesses. Simple actions like avoiding food waste could save businesses in our motor, wholesale and retail sectors £30 million per annum an average of £800 per business.

“Helping businesses, local authorities and the waste management sector adapt to changes required to meet new regulations is a priority for us.”

The organisation also announced the re-launch of its Business Re-use and Recycling directory, an online tool which will enable businesses to find local recycling services and reuse organisations.