Gillian Bruce: Firms can cash in on recycling

A vibrant ­economy is essential for ­Scotland's future. A successful economy in the 21st century must be one which is resource efficient, because our current rate of use ­considerably exceeds the ­planet's regeneration capacity. It is clear that we must act, and act now.

Unwanted books are recycled so they dont end up in landfill. 
Picture: Jacky Ghossein
Unwanted books are recycled so they dont end up in landfill. Picture: Jacky Ghossein

A traditional economy works on a linear model: we make, we use, and we dispose. To ensure a more sustainable, and therefore successful, Scotland we must continue to make the move away from that model towards an economy that is more circular.

A circular economy retains materials in high value states within the ­production system for as long as ­possible, dramatically increasing resource efficiency, and reducing waste; protecting the environment and reducing costs into the bargain.

Last year, the Scottish ­Government published ­Scotland’s first circular ­economy strategy, Making Things Last, providing a clear direction to build on ­Scotland’s progress towards resource efficiency and zero waste. The approach is also ­supported by VIBES partner Zero Waste Scotland through its Circular Economy Investment Fund, which will see £18 million of grant funding to small and ­medium enterprises helping to support this crucial goal.

As chair of VIBES Scottish Environment Business Awards, I know that many businesses have heeded this call for action.

The VIBES Circular Economy Award recognises businesses taking the step towards a more closed-loop approach to environmental best practice.

In 2016, the award was won by ­Hawick-based ­manufacturer of timber cable drums ­Marlin Industries ­Scotland. They ­demonstrated the real ­business benefits of ­refurbishing and remanufacturing cable drums to keep them in the supply chain for as long as possible.

The system resulted in a 60 per cent reduction in new purchases, in some ­cases up to 98 per cent. Materials that can’t be reused are chipped for biomass fuel or used on pathways or play areas, reducing waste, carbon footprint and business costs.

Better World Books (BWB), won the VIBES ­Circular Economy Award in 2015. BWB is a for-profit ­Dunfermline-based bookseller which collects books from organisations such as libraries, ­universities, recyclers and charity shops, which are processed and sold online.

Collecting redundant books diverts them from landfill. BWB ensures as many books as ­possible are reused. Any recycling goes to pulp processing for paper manufacture and diversification of reuse options is being ­considered. Packaging is reused as many times as ­possible (around three times for cardboard boxes) prior to being sent for pulp.

This demonstrates what can be achieved through a circular economy approach, and how it can benefit the bottom line. All ­businesses should consider moving towards a circular economy and help protect our world for future generations.

Gillian Bruce is chair of the VIBES Scottish Environment Business Awards.