29 May 2018 by Elizabeth Slow

Soils help Scotland boost recycling to 60%

Increased recycling of soils and mineral waste in 2016 helped Scotland reach a record 61% recycling rate.

Today (29 May), the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), said that Scottish recycling, composting and re-use of waste from all sources had exceeded 60% for the first time, according to its newly released statistics for the year. The figures cover both municipal and commercial waste.

Scotland soils

Scotland has flagged up its 60% recycling rate for 2016, partly boosted by soils recycling

For the calendar year 2016, the data shows that 6.96 million tonnes (61%) of waste was recycled, composted or prepared for re-use, over half a million tonnes more than in 2015.

The year also saw more households and businesses recycle food waste. SEPA reports that 605,624 tonnes of organic waste was recycled in composting or anaerobic digestion facilities – an increase of 102,580 tonnes (20.4%) from 2015 statistics and a 78.1% boost since 2011.

Total waste generated in Scotland fell to 10.79 million tonnes. It decreased by over half a million tonnes (0.53m tonnes) since 2015, with Scotland achieving the lowest quantity of waste being landfilled since 2011 – a 10.3% decrease from 2015.


However, incineration of waste from Scotland in 2016 increased. There were 527,082 tonnes of waste recovered by incineration with energy recovery or co-incineration – an increase of 61,344 tonnes (13.2%) from 2015.

The increase in recycling from 2015 was primarily due to recycling of soils and mineral waste from construction and demolition, SEPA notes. These wastes are primarily from the C&D sector, which varies considerably year on year depending on construction activities and major projects in the country, SEPA says.

“Work to promote and simplify recycling is paying off”.


Roseanna Cunningham
Environment secretary, Scottish Government

Commenting on the result, Terry A’Hearn, chief executive of SEPA, said: “Recycling is a real Scottish success story and a simple daily step that communities, corner shops or corporates can take to build a more sustainable Scotland. The scale of the environmental challenge is enormous and we know we live on one planet, but consume the resources of three.

“The most successful countries in the 21st century will be resource efficient, circular economies, where what once was waste is valued as a resource. We are committed to helping all regulated businesses do more to support waste prevention and facilitate the use of secondary resources in the economy, helping communities and businesses thrive within the resources of our planet.”

‘Paying off’

Environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham added that she felt the figures showed Scotland’s “work to promote and simplify recycling is paying off”.

Iain Gulland, chief executive, Zero Waste Scotland, said: “These figures show some really positive progress towards a more circular economy… They also show the importance of setting an ambitious and long-term policy direction. Scotland has led the way by introducing stretching targets and measures to limit and ultimately phase out the use of landfill for the most polluting wastes. That’s why Scotland is recognised as a world leader on the circular economy and why others are now emulating our approach.”

Related links
Sepa waste data


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