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STIRLING, Scotland: Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) has published a report revealing the country’s inhabitants consume materials at over twice a sustainable rate every year.

Analysis of Scotland’s first Material Flow Account (MFA)  explains the scale and nature of the country’s consumption by calculating all the raw materials used to make products and all the finished products the inhabitants consume, whether made in Scotland or imported.  

Based on 2017 data, Scotland's domestic consumption was 66 million tonnes or 12.2 tonnes per capita while its total raw material use was 100 million tonnes or 18.4 tonnes per person. This was 38 percent higher than the global average of 13.3 tonnes.

Some 123 million tonnes were extracted from the natural environment, of which 58 percent were fossil fuels, 24 percent were non-metallic minerals and 18 percent was biomass. Waste totalled 12 million tonnes in 2017 of which 49 percent was recycled.

ZWS environmental analyst and report author Kimberley Pratt noted: “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.”    

Michael Matheson, Scottish secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport said his government was committed to encouraging reuse, repair and recycling, designing products to last as long as possible and reducing the demand for raw materials.

Recent ZWS research discovered only 21 percent of Scottish residents are fully aware of their consumer impact while  59 percent are partially aware and 14 percent completely unaware.

When asked how they could reduce the impact of buying new products, 37 percent said they would keep things for as long as possible, 18 percent said they would recycle, nine percent would buy second hand and two percent would rent or borrow items.

Zero Waste Scotland CEO Iain Gulland commented: “We know that a circular economy is one of the solutions as it promises to maximise value from the goods we already have in circulation while relieving pressure on finite natural materials, like oil and precious metals. 

“Achieving that requires a joint effort from all sectors – from individuals to designers,  industry, and governments – and can help us generate new opportunities for Scotland from inward investment to new, ‘green’ jobs.”  
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