The three Rs that will help to build a circular economy - Lorna Slater

In the Green movement we often talk about the three Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle. These are at the heart of the economy that we are building.
A customer deposits empty returnable glass bottles into a device at a hypermarket in FranceA customer deposits empty returnable glass bottles into a device at a hypermarket in France
A customer deposits empty returnable glass bottles into a device at a hypermarket in France

Scotland produces a lot of waste. To be more specific, we produced 2.4 million tonnes of household waste in 2019 alone. The good news is that, with a recycling rate of 44.9 per cent, we are recycling more of it than ever, but there is still a long way to go.

Last week, in my capacity as the Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, I was proud to announce the first councils to be awarded funding from the Scottish Government’s £70 million Recycling Improvement Fund.

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This is one of the biggest investments in recycling for a generation and will support local authorities to increase the quantity and quality of recycling.

So far, we have awarded over £7 million from the fund. This is just one of the positive steps that we are taking to build our circular economy.

Instead of an economy where we take, make and dispose, a circular economy is one where we design things to last; reusing and repairing while wasting as little as possible.

Since my appointment to government, I have been working on the establishment of a world-leading Deposit Return Scheme for Scotland. This bold and ambitious scheme will make it easier for people to recycle their used bottles and cans, including all drinks sold in PET plastic, metal and glass.

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Unlike a lot of international schemes this one will be inclusive of small businesses as well as big ones. It will also include collection options for people unable to access drop-off points.

Despite the disruptions of Brexit and the pandemic, we are working closely with businesses and industry and are confident that we will deliver a programme that Scotland can be proud of. It will be the first in the UK of its type and I hope it will be among the best in the world.

These changes will build on the announced ban that we are implementing on some of the worst single-use plastics, including polystyrene, which have littered our streets and blighted our coasts for so long.

This kind of thinking, and these kinds of changes, are at the heart of Scotland’s response to the climate emergency and will help us to dramatically reduce the amount of waste that we generate.

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But what happens to the waste that we produce? In September I announced a major review of incineration. Last week I was pleased to confirm that all planning decisions on incinerators will be brought before Ministers while the review is ongoing.

After the disappointment of the COP climate conference, and the failure to reach the international agreements that are required, it is more important than ever that governments like Scotland do everything we can to lead by example.

Every day that I am at work I hear about the different steps that businesses and communities are taking across our country to reduce their carbon footprint and tackle the climate crisis. This is even more important in cities like Edinburgh where waste levels are highest.

The Three Rs may be easy to remember, but they can be hard to put into practice. The burden can’t fall on individuals and busy households. That is why, with Greens in government, we are doing everything we can to make it easier. By working together, we can build the fairer, greener future that we all want to see.

Lorna Slater is a Lothian Green MSP and Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity