The quantity of household waste being recycled in Scotland has exceeded the amount sent to landfill for the first time, according to the latest official figures.
Statistics released by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) show that 45.6 per cent of household rubbish generated north of the Border in 2017 was recycled.
This represents an increase of 0.6 per cent on the rate achieved in 2016.
A total of 2.46 million tonnes of household waste was generated last year – a drop of 38,153 tonnes, or 1.5 per cent, from 2016.
The amount recycled weighed in at 1.12 million tonnes, while 1.11 million tonnes went to landfill – 24,848 tonnes, or 2.2 per cent, less than the year before.
It is the sixth consecutive drop in household rubbish sent to landfill since 2011, and the first time more was recycled than buried.
However, the total amount of Scottish waste that was disposed of in landfill in 2017 came to 3.83 million tonnes, an increase of 90,816 tonnes, or 2.4 per cent, from 2016.
The increase was primarily due to an increase in landfill disposal of soils and rubble such as waste from construction sites, which rose 230,748 tonnes, or 22.4 per cent.
A further 766,574 tonnes of waste was incinerated – a rise of 83,347 tonnes, or 12.2 per cent, from 2016, and a massive increase of 356,515 tonnes, or 86.9 per cent, from 2011.
More than half of Scotland’s local authorities – 19 out of 32 – improved their recycling rates from the previous year, with West Lothian and East Renfrewshire leading the way.
The latest waste figures for the first time also show the total carbon footprint of Scottish household waste, from resource extraction and manufacturing to disposal.
The 2017 statistics show carbon impact of household waste generated and managed in 2017 was 5.86 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, which amounts to 1.08 tonnes per person.
This was a decrease of 1.9 per cent from 2016, and a decrease of 13.4 per cent from 2011.
Environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham welcomed the new figures but said efforts to cut waste and improve recycling must be stepped up.
She said: “Scotland has set itself some ambitious and challenging targets for recycling, above and beyond the standard EU target. We’re doing that to reflect our drive towards a more circular economy – ie, less waste, more things being re-used.
“The Scottish Government has big plans for tackling waste plastics, in particular by introducing a deposit return scheme, to further incentivise people to recycle. We’ve also introduced a Household Recycling Charter for local authorities to sign up to, which is making the approach to recycling less confusing for households and creating a more consistent and efficient system for authorities.
“It’s great to see recycling exceed landfill for the first time ever – particularly as the stats are released during Recycling Week – but I think we still need to see more progress, particularly in our bigger cities. We may consider further measures if the pace of improvement does not increase.”