14 April 2021 by Steve Eminton

The role of the RMAS within Scotland

The Resource Management Association Scotland (RMAS) was established in 2019 and is a not-for-profit, non-political membership organisation for micro, small and medium sized resource management companies operating in Scotland. In this report we asked the RMAS to outline the association’s aims and ambitions with regard to net-zero and sustainable resource management.

Explaining the aims of the RMAS, chair Brian Ritchie (director of David Ritchie & Sons) explained that there are a range of topics for it tackle. He said: “The challenges are great but RMAS feel, with the right level right support and intervention, our members are up to the task. We are also open and willing to work in a collaborative way with others in the sector to ensure we utilise all our skills to deliver a coordinated Scotland wide plan for the sectors development and our response to the net zero carbon challenge.”

‘Keen to see a sector wide plan’ – John Ferguson (picture by Graeme Hart)

The association also has a ‘Technical Innovations Group’ and John Ferguson, (formerly SEPA and now Director of EcoideaM and Pi Polymer Recycling) is chair of this. He remarks: “The RMAS are keen to see the development of a Sector wide plan which clearly sets out the critical role the SME resource management and circular economy sector fulfils in the Scottish and UK economy.”

Mr Ferguson adds: “We need to continue to modernise and develop products, infrastructure and services to meet the global climate crisis and play a critical role in delivering and supporting a net carbon zero economy.”

Giving more information about the RMAS, Duncan Simpson, formerly with Valpak and now a consultant in Scotland, is working with the association and below has answered a number of questions about its aims and ambitions.

1.       Could you tell us in what sectors the members are from?

RMAS members come from across Scotland. Members are micro, small and medium sized enterprises operating in the waste & resource management sector in Scotland, or larger companies with a wider portfolio but with resource management activities of a similar scale. They include companies delivering services to the building and construction sector, commercial and trade waste collections, organics and food waste processing, skip and container hire, recyclers, equipment suppliers, scrap metal merchants, WEEE collectors and treatment sites, communications consultancies, sustainability experts, emerging circular economy companies and treatment sites.

Duncan Ferguson is working with the RMAS (picture by Graeme Hart)

2.        How does the work of the RMAS tie in with the aims of the Scottish Government and Zero Waste Scotland?

The Scottish Government has set some ambitious targets for the resource and waste sector as well as a world leading goal of Net Carbon Zero by 2045. They have set a bold legislative framework including deposit return systems, interventions on single use plastics, a biodegradable landfill ban and food waste prevention and collection targets. Zero Waste Scotland has supported the delivery of these policies and has provided research and support to help deliver them.

RMAS seeks to collaborate and work with civil servants and Zero Waste Scotland employees to ensure that industry has a strong voice and to provide a clear understanding of the both the opportunities and challenges the sector faces in transitioning to Net Carbon Zero to play their role in delivering these ambitious targets. As COVID-19 emerged the RMAS were an integral and active player on the new Scottish Government Chaired COVID_19 Waste Sector Forum which brought together key stakeholders. This has galvanised the RMAS as a key representative body for the sector in Scotland.

The sector has come a long way since many were solely dependent on landfill and have invested and developed services to help organisations all over Scotland reduce, reuse, separate and recycle materials rather than landfill them. These services are operational across the length and breadth of Scotland and continue to provide reliable, flexible, services which gives customers real choices. And now the RMAS will be actively working to support members transition to more sustainable business models and play their roles in the new green economy.

“RMAS will be actively working to support members transition to more sustainable business models”

RMAS feels that now, more than ever, businesses including the SME Sector, should be actively engaged and involved to contribute constructively to new policy direction, strategic decisions and implementation. We see cross-sectoral partnerships as key to the future evolution of workable policy development and delivery on the ground. Policies are effective tools to drive change but they must also be timed and planned in such a way that the transition to the new goals is possible in the timeframes laid down.  Many of the changes signalled require alternate business models, supporting infrastructure and investment and a sound understanding of the timeframe and barriers to change.

3.     How do you see the association’s SME sector adding value?

The added value the SME sector delivers can best be described in terms of the coverage it offers to:

· The geographical areas the members service, with companies operating in urban, semi-rural and rural locations across the across the length and breadth of Scotland

· The level, range, and types of services on offer many of which ensure essential protection of public health

· The multiple business and public sector clients supported.

· The contribution to recycled material supply chains and the creation of a circular economy across Scotland and the economic value and employment the diversity of the sector delivers in Scotland.

The RMAS has started work on a resource management and circular economy sector plan for Scotland

4.       What activities has RMAS undertaken?

Recently as well as being a founder member and contributing to the Scottish Government Waste Sector Response to COVID-19, the RMAS has also been actively engaged in, and facilitated a series of cross sectoral meetings with key operators and stakeholders. The RMAS has set up projects and enabled constructive dialogue on a number of priority issues including Construction Fines, Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment recycling, Persistent Organic Pollutants and Health and Safety guidelines for the sector during COVID-19.

Recently a RMAS Technical and Innovation group (TIG) was established, made up of individuals with wide ranging expertise from across the sector. This group have started to work on developing a resource management and circular economy Sector Plan which will clearly set out what the sector can deliver to support the post COVID-19 recovery including meeting the challenges and opportunities presented by climate change (towards net zero by 2045) and the necessary transition to a green economy and will be consulting widely across the Scottish sector and its wider customer supply chain during this process.

RMAS are also currently in discussion with other sector representative bodies to establish a co-creative approach to this sector plan for Scotland. This will help ensure the focus on sector development and most importantly the net zero carbon challenge is integrated, coordinated and sector wide.

The RMAS sees cross-sectoral partnerships as key to the future evolution of workable policy development and delivery

5.     You have mentioned a sector plan – what might it contain?

The sector plan being developed will reference the technical innovation already taking place across the sector and the new and emerging ideas, including:

·  offering decentralised heat and energy to local communities which help to reduce the risk from distribution networks being impacted by extreme weather or service disruption.

·  the provision of high-quality products and smart materials to be utilised in closed loop applications which will allow local businesses to exploit these new supplies of materials and embed them into their day-to-day operations.

·  the provision of high-quality organic materials which can provide essential materials to remineralise and enhance agricultural soils across Scotland and in turn support a more sustainable food supply chain.

·  re-use, repurposing and waste prevention support.

·   apprenticeships and new employment opportunities

Many companies have already invested in their own research and development to drive this innovation. Decarbonising the sector will be a key challenge due to a lack of funding support coupled with existing post COVID-19 pressures and other uncertainties. The Sector Plan will therefore also identify and determine how best these ‘innovation blockages’ can be overcome to best ensure the network of SMEs are supported to help accelerate the transition to net zero carbon.

6.       What sort of timetable are you working to on the sector plan?

Everyone is aiming at making their voice heard at COP 26. RMAS will aim to have a clear message to take to this prestigious meeting. A message which clearly set out the role we have played to date and what we can deliver in the future.

7.      How can those interested in the association contact you?

SMEs wishing to become part of the organisation can join by going to the RMAS website (www.RMAScotland.co.uk) or by contacting our support team on email info@rmascotland.co.uk


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