New analysis is game changing say environmentalists
Scotland’s consumption footprint has been mapped for the first time, showing the extent waste materials impact on the environment.
The Scottish Material Flow Accounts has been hailed as a ‘game-changer’ by environmental academics, revealing that the average Scot consumes 18.4 tonnes of materials every year – the equivalent of 50kg per day on average.
Academics agree that a sustainable level of material use, which would still allow for a high quality of life, is about eight tonnes per person per year.
The analysis by Zero Waste Scotland quantifies Scotland’s material footprint for the first time and paints a picture of the scale and nature of Scotland’s consumption by calculating all the raw materials used to make products (e.g. oil and metal ores) and all the finished products consumed, whether made in Scotland or imported.
Iain Gulland, chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland, said: “What the MFA tell us is that consumption in Scotland is unsustainably high. This is, in part, due to the quantity of things we buy.
“We need a system wide change that enables us all to choose more sustainable ways to live, use the things we need and share resources.”
Kimberley Pratt, Zero Waste Scotland environmental analyst and report author, added: “It is also due to the amounts of materials it takes to extract raw materials and manufacture new products.
“These processes are resource-intensive, but those costs are not obvious when we look only at the finished product. For example, 25 tonnes of iron ore must be mined to produce one tonne of iron which the average Scot might consume as steel in products such as the buildings we live and work in, cars and electrical appliances.
“This highlights the negative environmental impacts of our production processes and consumption habits which favour using new goods made from virgin materials rather than re-used or repaired goods, or goods made from recycled materials or from remanufacturing.”
The evidence of the Scottish MFA shows there is an inextricable relationship between what Scotland consumes and its global climate impact.
With the current global political agenda focussed on accelerating a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, ahead of COP26 later this year in Glasgow, the report provides a base of evidence to help us rethink how we consume in Scotland.
Michael Matheson, Scotland’s energy and transport minister, said: “The Scottish Government is committed to ending our contribution to climate change within a generation. To make that happen, we need to understand and reduce the impact of the products and materials we consume.
“This is the first report of its kind for Scotland, and it will be a vital tool for engaging people in discussions on how we reduce the impact of our consumption. It is clear that the more materials we extract and use, the more damage we do to the climate and to nature.
“That is why we are committed to building a circular economy in Scotland. By encouraging reuse, repair and recycling, and designing products to last as long as possible, we can reduce the demand for raw materials, and the emissions that come with them. We will be introducing a Circular Economy Bill to help support that transformation.”