What we learned from Scotland’s Waste to Wealth event

Over 150 business leaders gathered in Glasgow to hear how there is a massive economic opportunity to be had from recycling our everyday waste.

Scotland’s Waste to Wealth event was organised by Business in the Community (BITC) in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage, Zero Waste Scotland and the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital, and held at Glasgow’s 200 SVS on Tuesday.

Businesses from across a wide range of sectors - from banking to food production - explored how greater collaboration can be achieved and discussed solutions to increase Scotland’s resource productivity while reducing waste by 2030.

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The circular economy will create more jobs

Picture: Malcolm McCurrach | New Wave Images UK

There is a £3 billion opportunity to the Scottish economy from the circular economy. For every one job created in the collection of materials for recycling it is estimated that there is another eight jobs created in the reprocessing, resale and re-purposing of those materials back into the economy. By increasing our re-purposing of manufacturing equipment, that has already been used here in Scotland, over 5,000 jobs could be created.

Good things happen when companies collaborate

When companies come together to further the circular economy they are acting in a common interest and the competitive angle is removed. Existing players were urged to collaborate with new start-ups developing cutting edge services that will change the way we think about how we use everyday products. Delegates heard how collaboration was the catalyst for the circular economy with Glasgow-based Jaw Brewery, which makes beer from leftover morning rolls from Aulds the bakers, cited as an example.

Leaders have to lead

Iain Gulland, ceo of Zero waste Scotland. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach | New Wave Images UK

Company leaders have to inspire change within their organisation and make a stand on certain issues. Chief executive of SKY Jeremy Darroch discussed the decision to remove plastic cups from the organisation and issue staff with reusable ones. He said: "When you are a leader you have got to lead and there are certain things that you have to stand for. "I have been impressed by our ability to effect change as an organisation. This has been down to people knowing that we have to do something and being willing to get on board."

Times are changing

Iain Gulland, CEO of Zero Waste Scotland, pointed to the surge in momentum from Scottish firms when it comes to embracing the circular economy adding that businesses themselves are leading this. He said: "We have seen a real shift in the dial. Businesses wanted to be guided in some circumstances but there is a momentum. We are now working alongside businesses at pace and focused on turning commitment from businesses into action on the ground.

We are running out of time

Jeremy Darroch, chairman of BITC and chief executive of Sky (right) . Picture: Malcolm McCurrach | New Wave Images UK

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a warning in October that there are just 12 years to mitigate the risk of catastrophic climate change by changing our relationship with resources. Scientists also believe that in some parts of the world there are only 60 harvests left.

Picture: Malcolm McCurrach | New Wave Images UK