Zero waste law could bring huge savings

Scotland has some new waste regulations in place . But what they mean for the foodservice industry? Iain Gulland explains.


BUSINESSES OPERATING in Scotland’s catering sector will be required to sort and present food waste and other key recyclable materials for separate collection under new Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012, passed by the Scottish Parliament last month.


The new regulations are a key driver to support the Scottish Government’s Zero Waste Plan – an ambitious agenda which targets a 70% recycling rate for all of Scotland’s waste by 2025 to set Scotland amongst the best performing nations in Europe.


Stimulating radical change in the way everyone manages their waste – from the individual and the small business, to local authorities and the resource management industry itself – the regulations bring a once-in-a-generation opportunity to up our game and grasp real economic opportunities for Scotland.


Indeed, recent research has indicated that achieving a 70% recycling rate could boost Scotland’s economy by as much as £175million.  But what does this all mean for businesses in Scotland’s foodservice industry?


Setting up comprehensive recycling systems, including food waste recycling, is clearly the top priority when preparing to comply with the new regulations. All businesses will need to separate paper and card, plastic, metal and glass for recycling by January 2014. Businesses that produce more than 50kg of food waste per week will also need to separate this for collection by January 2014, while those producing between 5kg and 50kg per week will be asked to follow suit by January 2016.


Zero Waste Scotland is supporting the resource management industry to develop their operations to increase the recycling services available to SMEs. Small businesses could also stand to make financial savings, increase their recycling rates and reduce their environmental impact by working together to collect larger quantities of recyclable materials in one place or join together to contract one waste manager to provide collections.


A number of pilot projects have begun across Scotland to explore these collaborative approaches to recycling collections, including a project run by Glasgow Restaurant Association to explore the viability of introducing a single food waste collection for all of its members.


Fundamentally the new regulations are not just about managing waste – they are about driving a change in the economy.  Zero Waste Scotland is committed to working together with Scotland’s food service industry to help businesses make the most of their resources and adapt to meet the requirements of the Waste (Scotland) Regulations. Businesses in the food and drink industry can receive sector-specific advice and could be eligible for free and confidential reviews of site operational packaging and waste prevention advice.


Regulation works to establish a basic minimum.  However, businesses that do more will benefit the most. The biggest savings will come from reducing waste by making better use of resources in the first place.


Scottish firms could save up to £2billion by adopting simple resource efficiency measures, and a recent study identified that £64million could be saved by cutting out food waste in the hospitality sector alone.


Iain Gulland is director of Zero Waste Scotland.

A wide range of tools and support to help businesses identify ways to reduce waste and save money, including On Course for Zero Waste, a free online training course is also available online at