Ambitious vision for a zero waste Scottish economy unveiled

Scotland must be clear on circular economy investment, Minister tells delegates at Viridor launch event

  1. Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation says clarity on infrastructure investment is part of the Scottish commitment to be a green leader
  2. Viridor sets out vision to end Scotland’s export of waste and recycling through new infrastructure investments creating skilled green jobs to drive a green recovery.
  3. Vision for a site which converts Scotland’s waste into new products and commodities – to achieve a zero-waste economy
  4. Low carbon heat and power from non-recyclable waste will provide energy to run all the recycling and reprocessing activity
  5. A dedicated Circular Economy Innovation Centre would be a testbed for universities, start-ups and Scottish business to develop solutions to eliminate waste, by tackling the hardest to recycle products and putting partnership at heart of the vision.

The time has come for Scotland to be clear about the infrastructure investment required to deliver the world-leading circular economy it is committed to, says Scotland’s Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation, Ivan McKee MSP.

Mr McKee was speaking at an online launch event hosted yesterday (Wednesday, 1 July, 2020) by Viridor, one of the UK’s largest recycling companies. Viridor runs a specialist glass recycling plant at Newhouse, near Glasgow, an advanced recycling facility at Bargeddie, an energy recovery facility at Dunbar and the company operates the Glasgow Recycling and Renewable Energy Centre for Glasgow City Council.

Viridor shared a message from Her Royal Highness, the Princess Royal, who spoke of her own commitments to recycling.

The company presented its vision for a Scottish Circular Economy and Innovation Park which brings together energy-intensive recycling and reprocessing plants with facilities which produce the energy required. Viridor’s energy recovery facilities are the sophisticated combined heat and power plants which use non-recyclable waste as the fuel to generate low carbon electricity and heat.

The event, From Vision to Reality – converting Scotland’s Circular Economy Leadership into concrete action to ensure we Build Back Better, attracted stakeholders across the Scottish government, SEPA, Scottish Enterprise, Zero Waste Scotland, local government, business and academia.

Mr McKee said this clarity on infrastructure investment was a crucial part of the Scottish commitment to be a green leader.

He said: “Scotland’s climate and environmental priorities are intrinsically linked with economic growth and jobs. They are and must be part of a singular mission. As we plan our strategic economic recovery from Covid-19, now is the time to re-imagine the Scotland around us and to begin building a greener, fairer and more equal society and economy focused on wellbeing. This includes identifying the infrastructure investments this transition will require.

“I am clear that this is not something the Scottish public sector can deliver on its own. Events like today’s help set clear expectations – and this helps to direct those with the knowledge, skills, and investment potential to deliver what Scotland requires.

“It is critical that we use the circular economy discussion hosted by Viridor today to create the momentum we need to move beyond ambition, creating the partnerships which will drive our green recovery and deliver on our ambitions for a net-zero economy.”

In a recorded message to the event delegates, Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal, said she was delighted to help launch the Scottish Circular Economy and Innovation Park – “an important and practical demonstration of what should be happening”.

She added that the discussions, bringing together all sectors of society to ensure recycling was seen for what it is “a valuable resource and not just rubbish” were to be applauded.

“I am encouraged to hear that, in these challenging times, this vision matches innovation and investment with job creation, giving our young people the opportunity to play a major role in the world they will inherit.”

The launch included a live debate with panel members including Mr McKee, Terry A’Hearn, CEO of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency; Charlie Smith, Managing Director, International Development, Strategy and Technology at Scottish Enterprise; Dr Gillian Murray, Deputy Principal, Enterprise and Business, Heriot-Watt University; Alison McRae, Glasgow Chamber of Commerce Senior Director and Viridor’s Director of Innovation and Regulation, Dr Tim Rotheray.

During the event, participants were given a glimpse of how Scotland’s circular economy could look in the future, including expert insight and commentary from across the sector and virtual animations – culminating in a clear call to action to industry stakeholders on what the next steps should be.

Viridor Managing Director Phil Piddington said that Viridor, with its history of recycling infrastructure investment in Scotland, was working to be a key partner in ensuring Scotland achieves its goals.

The company is also preparing a planning application to East Lothian Council for a plastics reprocessing plant at Dunbar which would draw heat and power from the energy recovery facility.

Mr Piddington added: “We recognise that these goals cannot be achieved by any one organisation. Success lies in partnering across business, government, academia and inventors to ensure Scottish resources are used and reprocessed in Scotland before being returned to local businesses creating a truly circular economy. These partnerships move us from ambition to the practical reality which delivers real results for the country.”

Viridor’s Innovation and Regulation Director Tim Rotheray said this was a challenge which everyone must all rise to. He said: “The event has created the opportunity for Scotland’s key stakeholders to come together and debate what is needed to move the Scottish circular economy beyond ambition, asking questions, such as: how can regulation and policy drive both an improved economy and better environment? And how can researchers and inventors contribute to addressing the most difficult waste problems?”

Dr Rotheray said Viridor’s vision for a Scottish Circular Economy and Innovation Park had been designed to deliver both resource and energy efficiency. He said: “Scotland’s resource and emissions reduction goals can be achieved within a single site - the Scottish Circular Economy and Innovation Park which could be located in Dunbar.”