Circular economy proposals to be announced in May – will they be up to the job?

11 Mar 2022

Scottish Environment LINK welcomes the news that the Scottish Government will consult on a Circular Economy bill in May and that a ban on the destruction of unsold goods will be one of the proposals brought forward.

However, banning the destruction of unsold goods is only one part of the jigsaw puzzle if Scotland is to really address the environmental impact of the way we make, use and waste products.

Research by the International Resource Panel shows that global consumption of natural resources has tripled since the 1970s and is set to further double by 2060, and that 90% of biodiversity loss is caused by resource extraction and processing. Material flow accounts for Scotland, published in 2021, show our material footprint to be more than double sustainable levels and carbon footprint data shows that 82% of Scotland’s carbon footprint is derived from emissions embedded in goods we consume.

Our climate and nature emergencies demand systemic change across our economy to really address the impact of the way we make and use products. Such systemic change must be driven by targets to focus minds – in all areas of the economy – on reducing our use of raw materials. In the same way that our climate change targets are driving policy to decarbonise energy and heat production, a material footprint target could drive policy to ‘circularise’ our economy. Such a target should be central to the circular economy bill.

As well as banning the destruction of unsold goods, we need to make sure products stay in use for as long as possible. Legislation should introduce a repairability index, telling consumers how easy a product is to repair, and retailers should be required to take back products at the end of their life, incentivising design that keeps value in components and materials. Products that are particularly problematic in the environment, for example plastic wet-wipes, should be banned.

The bill should include an obligation to publish a plan, updated every five years, which would map out how to reduce our material footprint, how to address problematic materials and chemicals, and the requirements that will be placed on different sectors.

Scottish Environment LINK looks forward to seeing the proposals in May and hopes that they are up to the job.

For more information on legislation and policies needed to make our economy more circular, please see our briefing, ‘A Circular Scotland’.

Contact: Phoebe Cochrane, phoebe@scotlink.org

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