Towards a Circular Economy: Scotland’s Bioresource Flows
The Scottish Science Advisory Council – Scotland’s highest level independent science advisory body — has released a report that identifies the necessary practical steps to move Scotland forward in the nation's aspirations of a more circular bioeconomy.
Key research underpinning the report was undertaken by SAGES (Scottish Alliance for Geoscience Environment and Society) policy interns, Dr Ashley Buchan (School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh) and Dr Carla Comadran Casas (University of Abertay), who analysed and synthesised information from data sets, completed questionnaires and roundtable discussions.
ECCI runs the SAGES Innovation Programme which supports SAGES policy internships. Running since 2017, the programme is designed to develop the skills of early career researchers and allow policy organisations to benefit from the skills, knowledge and insights SAGES researchers can bring.
Towards a Circular Economy: Scotland’s Bioresource Flows focuses on how to quantify and track by-products and wastes (alternatively referred to as ‘bioarisings’) - which includes the biowaste, by-products, agricultural residues, and sewage sludge produced by households and sectors of industry - and how to improve connectivity between producers and manufacturers.
The research is targeted to provide insights to the Circular Economy Unit of the Scottish Government’s Environment and Forestry Directorate as the Circular Economy Bill makes its way through Parliament during 2023 and 2024.
Main Findings and Recommendations
An in-depth review of the underpinning evidence used by all reports on bioresources in Scotland revealed that none of the datasets meet all the benchmarks of good quality, and primary data for bioarisings is scarce, and that introduction of mandatory digital waste tracking in Scotland and the wider UK (in line with UK Government plans) is critical to improve the availability and quality of data on bioresources.
Recommendation 1: Circular Economy target definition.
Targets must be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound), policy aligned, cross-sectoral and incentivising. Given the necessary breadth and complexity of targets, the Scottish Government should convene a working group to define standards for data collection, and bioresources management practices which should then be regulated and monitored.
Recommendation 2: Connecting supply chain commerce.
Lack of quality data on bioarisings and a shallow understanding of the complexity of their input into supply chains is stifling innovative commercial demand in circularity. The Scottish Government should facilitate a significant uplift in specific Circular Economy (CE) enlightenment and matchmaking partnerships by creating a digital CE marketplace, via existing networks and organisations.
Recommendation 3: Civil planning and circularity.
Scotland’s geographic diversity makes for a complex bioresource ecosystem. EU Waste Framework articles or equivalent UK frameworks should be used to inform a statutory interface between regional, inter-regional and national planning processes, accompanied by a public information campaign. National coordination alone, however, is not sufficient: innovation often arises at the local level.
Recommendation 4: Digital waste tracking.
To implement a digital waste tracking service the Scottish Government should grant statutory powers on regulation and enforcement for the Circular Economy. The statutory body(ies) for Circular Economy, should work with public and private sector partners to consider how to use digital waste data to realise Circular Economy opportunities for bioresources..
This report is the outcome of work undertaken by the Scottish Science Advisory Council (SSAC), working with the Circular Economy Unit of the Scottish Government’s (SG) Directorate Environment and Forestry Directorate and representatives of Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS), the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBiolC) and SAGES (Scottish Alliance for Geoscience Environment and Society) policy interns, Dr Ashley Buchan (School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh) and Dr Carla Comadran Casas (Univrsity of Abertay).
SAGES pools world-leading expertise in geoscience and environmental science from across Scotland’s research base, creating a multi-disciplinary alliance at the forefront of earth and environmental research. SAGES is a partnership between the Universities of Aberdeen, Abertay, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, Stirling, SAMS UHI, SUERC, UWS and the British Geological Survey, Scotland.
ECCI runs the SAGES Innovation Programme which supports policy and industry placements and internships. Running since 2017, the programme is designed to develop the skills of early career researchers and allows policy and industry organisations to benefit from the skills, knowledge and insights of SAGES researchers.