Dunbar: Scotland’s first Zero Waste town a year on

All eyes are on Dunbar as it marks its first year of a drive to make it Scotland’s envy when it comes to recycling rates.

Artist's impression of an energy recycling facility, part of

Scotlands ambitions to be a zero waste nation.
Artist's impression of an energy recycling facility, part of Scotlands ambitions to be a zero waste nation.

The Scottish Government announced last summer than £300,000 would be invested in Dunbar to improve the way it manages it waste over three years.

As a result, Dunbar, which has a population of almost 7,000, joins a growing list of zero waste towns including towns in Holland, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Slovenia and Romania.

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Here, it will become a beacon of best practice when it comes to recycling and show other towns, cities and villages what Scotland will have to do to meet its ambitious target of having 70 per cent of waste recycled by 2025.

Richard Lochhead trials the reverse vending pilot project for glass , aluminium and PET
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Suprisingly, no figure exists to show Dunbar’s starting point in this exercise and still no figure is available to illustrate how far it has come.

East Lothian last year performed at roughly the national average at 42.8 per cent of waste recycled.

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While the local authority figure for 2015 is yet to be confirmed, the area is on track to see the rate raise to 55 per cent, partly due the introduction of food bins for thousands of homes.

Work is ongoing by Zero Waste Scotland to assist Sustaining Dunbar, which runs the recycling programme in the town, to get the best picture possible about the impact of the green drive so far,.

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Sue Guy, project manager at Sustaining Dunbar, said so far work had been done with 298 residents to improve how they recycle.

A business Officer was appointed in September to collaborate with firms to secure them the best recycling contracts and services, with many private firms competing for these green contracts.

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Schools and education of younger people was also key to the success of Zero Waste Dunbar, Ms Guy said, with recycling hubs soon to be fitted in five schools.

Discussions with school kitchen managers how to dispose their waste in the most sustainable manner- such as the use of anaerboic digesters, which breaks down food and converts into bio fuels - had taken place.

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Ms Guy said Sustainable Dunbar had been able to consider recycling on behalf of organisations, such as schools and businesses, who perhaps had just not the time to full take on board what the options are.

She added: ”Our team is able to work with teachers, roads departments businesses, we can help them plan, help with waste audits, help them produce more high quality recycling and get them to understand that it is a valuable resource for them

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“When people start to think about waste in that way, it tends to turn things on its head.”

Essential work had been carried out to understand why recycling hadn’t been carried out, either due to attitudes, lack of awareness or lack of infrastructure, she said.

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She said there much work to do in the next 12 months before the project ends.

Ms Guy said: “We have to move real quick because the infrastructure hasn’t been there or has not been applied

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“It is difficult for people in some cases to recycle and that is what we are trying to do - find the barriers and reduce them where we can within the time we have and within the budget.”

She added that a wide range of housing stock had hampered good recycling in some cases, with work done to tailor services for different homes.

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Ms Guy said: “There have been difficulties in getting it right for very house as the stock is very varied from old high street tenement properties to modern housing estates.

“We are getting a local understanding of how these Scottish Government targets translate on through the ground.”

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She said Dunbar was an important test case in how achievable the recycling targets were and what needed to happen to realise them.

Ms Guy added: “There are going to be huge lessons learns and will hopefully have a big impact on the appropriate infrastructure required on a national level.”

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How Dunbar fares over the next 12 months will determine the value of the status and whether it will be afforded to other town and villages - and perhaps even cities - across the country.

Bute was named as Scotland’s first zero waste island in September with £200,000 awarded to Fyne Futures Ltd to develop a series of recycling projects over the next two years.

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Councillor Norman Hampshire, environment spokesman for East Lothian Council, said people’s imagination had been “captured” in Dunbar by the zero waste drive and that other town’s were watching progress.

He said: “Zero Waste Dunbar is an initiative which has really captured the imagination of the local community. In the short time since it was established we have seen individuals, families and schools all play their part in supporting recycling projects to reduce the quantity of waste going to landfill.

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“I know other towns are watching the progress achieved with a view to introducing something similar.”

A Zero Waste Scotland spokesperson said: “Since the inception of the initiative, local group Sustaining Dunbar is taking forward a wide range of projects, increasing the awareness of recycling and re-use among residents and increasing the opportunities for them to recycle and re-use resources, in several different areas of life, engaging with key parts of the community from schools to businesses, and working closely with the local authority. We look forward to seeing the initiative continue to progress in Dunbar over the next two years.”