Scottish councils record 45.6% recycling rate for 2017

Scotland’s local authorities recorded a recycling and composting rate of 45.6% in 2017 – figures published by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency today (26 March) have indicated.

This represents a slight increase on the 45% recorded for 2016 – but councils remain short of the Scottish Government’s 2013 target level of 50%. By comparison, councils in England hit a 44.8% recycling rate for the same period.

Recycling rates for household waste have increased

In total, the data shows that Scottish households generated a total of 2.46 million tonnes of waste in 2017, a decrease of 38,153 tonnes (1.5%) from 2016. Despite resulting in a fall in the volume of waste sent for recycling – down 2,800 tonnes to 1.12 million tonnes – this means that the total amount of waste recycled exceeded the amount landfilled (1.11 million tonnes) for the first time.

East Renfrewshire is recorded as Scotland’s highest recycling performer, with a 67.1% combined rate, while Shetland Islands recorded the lowest rate of 8%.

However, despite a drop in the amount of waste produced by households, the data shows that taking into account waste from all sources, including households, construction and demolition, and commerce and industry the total quantity of waste generated across Scotland in 2017 increased by 5.5%.

And, whilst 142,195 tonnes more waste was recycled in the 2017 calendar year, SEPA said, the statistics show that the national recycling rate was 58.9%, a decrease of 0.2 percentage points from 2016.


2017 also saw over 760,000 tonnes of waste was diverted from landfill through incineration with energy recovery or co-incineration. This is an increase of 14.7% from 2016.

Landfill sites in Scotland will no longer be allowed to accept biodegradable municipal waste from January 2021

Concerns have been raised in recent months over Scotland’s readiness for a ban on sending biodegradable waste to landfill, which comes into effect in the country from 2021 (see story).

Commenting on the latest figures, a Scottish Government spokesperson, said: “The Scottish Government is committed to a number of ambitious waste management and recycling targets.

“Scotland already meets EU targets on the amount of biodegradable municipal waste sent to landfill and the forthcoming ban on biodegradable municipal waste to landfill starting in 2021 will drive significant further reductions. We are aware of the challenges some councils are having in putting in place alternative waste management measures and we are working with them to deliver progress as soon as possible.

“While it is disappointing to see a slight reduction in the 2017 recycling rate, the long-term trend is upwards.

“We are developing a range of ambitious initiatives which will drive further progress, notably the introduction Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme and further action to reduce food waste.”




Recycling/ composting and preparing for re-use of waste from all sources 59.1% 58.9%
Organic waste recycled by composting or anaerobic digestion 605, 614 tonnes 633, 629 tonnes
Biodegradable municipal waste landfilled in Scotland 1.14 million tonnes 1.09 million tonnes
Waste recovered by incineration with energy recovery 663,925 tonnes 761,581 tonnes
Percentage of all waste sent to landfill 32.5% 32.6%

Terry A’Hearn, SEPA’s chief executive, added: “The scale of the environmental challenge is enormous and we know that in Scotland we currently use the resources of three planets, but only have one.

“The most successful countries in the 21st century will be resource efficient, circular economies, where what once was waste is valued as a resource. As such, the latest figures give communities and businesses a fresh focus for the opportunity ahead.”

Related Links
SEPA – 2017 Waste statistics

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