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News / Recycling picks up steam but isles still lag below average

SIC recycling bins. Photo: Shetland News

NEW figures show that Shetland continued to have the worst recycling rate in Scotland last year by a large margin.

The data from environmental regulator SEPA shows that just eight per cent of household waste in the isles was recycled in 2017, with the national average sitting at over 45 per cent.

Shetland Islands Council’s environment and transport committee chairman Ryan Thomson said the figures highlighted why the local authority has been rolling out its new doorstep recycling scheme.

The figures show that for the first time ever, there was more waste recycled in Scotland than landfilled.

While Shetland’s recycling rate increased by 0.1 per cent on 2016, most of the isles’ bruck was incinerated or sent to landfill.

In 2017 just over 9,750 tonnes of waste was generated by Shetlanders, with 778 tonnes being recycled.

Around one fifth of the isles’ rubbish was sent to landfill, with the rest burnt in the waste to energy incinerator.

Orkney, in comparison, recycled 18.3 per cent of its household waste.

The figures placed Shetland as one of the main offenders in SEPA’s league table of per-person carbon impact, with only Argyll and Bute, Western Isles and Dumfries and Galloway performing worse.

Households in Shetland have been receiving two new wheelie bins over the last number of months for recycling items like paper, tins and some plastics, and the scheme is set to roll-out in Lerwick in the coming weeks as its phased introduction edges towards competition.

The scheme was a knock-on effect from stringent Scottish Government recycling targets, with ministers wanting the country to recycle 70 per cent of its waste by 2025.

Some critics have questioned the environmental impact of shipping Shetland’s recyclables south for processing, and taking waste from the mainland to keep the incinerator busy for fuelling Lerwick’s district heating scheme, but Zero Waste Scotland said it is still the greenest option by far.

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Thomson said the household recycling scheme should help the isles’ rates to increase significantly.

“For the first time since records began there was more waste recycled here in Scotland than went to landfill which is a real milestone moment for the country,” he said.

“The figures are from 2017, so now in 2018 Shetland has the ability due to doorstep recycling to contribute significantly to helping this forward trend continue. It’s vitally important we increase our figure of 8 per cent of waste recycled, which is by far the worst in the country, and through doorstep recycling we will do so.

“As a local authority we generated 9,754 tonnes of waste but only 778 tonnes of this was recycled. We expect improvements on this figure as the rollout of doorstep recycling across Shetland reaches its final stages.

“We will then be able to monitor these figures more closely as we do so. The national recycling target is to have 70 per cent of all waste recycled by 2025, and a maximum of 5 per cent sent to landfill. It’s imperative Shetland contributes to achieving this target, which we will do over the coming years.”

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