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News / Exporting isles’ waste for recycling is by far the greenest option, ZWS data shows

Zero Waste Scotland is one of the organisations administering a part of the programme.

PLASTIC recycled in Shetland would have to be shipped around the globe more than 15 times in order for landfill or incineration to be a more environmentally friendly option, according to figures from Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS).

Shetland Islands Council will introduce isles-wide recycling collections from next July, with materials previously fed into the Gremista-based Energy Recovery Plant instead being shipped south for recycling.

Some have suggested the emissions involved in transporting the waste would override any ecological benefit, but ZWWS data found that plastics from the islands would need to be shipped around the world 15.6 times – and paper 2.6 times – to override the emissions saved in recycling.

For every tonne of plastic recycled rather than incinerated, 2.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide is saved from the atmosphere. Recycling also allows materials to be reused over and over again, reducing the amount of finite raw materials required to manufacture new products.

SIC environment and transport committee chairman Ryan Thomson said those ZWS figures were discussed at an early stage when considering how best to implement the new recycling scheme.

Since a Lerwick and Scalloway kerbside collection was abandoned in April 2013, the isles’ recycling rate has slumped to around a fifth of the 44 per cent national average – with the Scottish Government hoping to raise that to 70 per cent by the middle of the 2020s.

“As I’ve stated before, I know there will be teething issues to begin with,” Thomson told Shetland News, “but being one of the last council areas to get underway with this legal requirements gives us an advantage of looking at what worked and didn’t work in other parts of Scotland.

“Our current recycling rate of below nine per cent is not good enough, and while, because of a forthcoming change in legislation which will prevent us from burning hard plastics and non-ferrous metals at the Energy Recovery Plant, combined with the Waste Scotland Act 202 which requires us to offer a recycling service, this is not only something we must implement, it’s something we should be doing for the sake of our children and grandchildren.”

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ZWS has pledged £579,000 in funding to support the Shetland-wide recycling scheme for paper, card, plastic, cans and cartons.

The council is looking into importing non-recyclable waste from other council areas to provide sustenance for the Energy Recovery Plant, which is used to fuel a district heating scheme for households.

ZWS chief executive Iain Gulland said: “Scotland’s recycling rate has continued to grown in recent years, and with 25 councils, including Shetland, signed up to the household recycling charter there’s clear appetite to drive recycling even further.

“By maximising its recycling potential, with support from Zero Waste Scotland, there’s a real opportunity for Shetland to protect its beautiful natural environment and benefit the local economy at the same time.”

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