Scotland: Making Things Last - A Circular Economy Strategy

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Scottish Government Scotland: Making Things Last - A Circular Economy Strategy

The Scottish Government developed a strategy in 2016 to move the country towards a more circular economy, aligning its economic and environmental objectives. It aims to bring together business sectors and individuals to jointly work towards that goal.

Two of the strategy’s key elements are: to develop a more comprehensive approach to producer responsibility by setting up a single framework for all product types that drives choices for reuse, repair and remanufacture, while more fully exposing and addressing the costs of recycling and disposal; and to reduce all food waste by 33% by 2025 – the first such target to be set in Europe.

The strategy’s four priority areas, based on their resource use, environmental impact and importance to the Scottish economy, are:

  • Food, drink, and the broader bio-economy: the beer, whisky and fish industries could reduce costs by £500-800 million a year by taking a more circular approach
  • Remanufacture: contributes £1.1 billion a year to Scottish GDP and could contribute £1.7 billion a year by 2020
  • Construction and the built environment: generates around half of all waste produced in Scotland, so has a significant opportunity to increase resource efficiency
  • Energy infrastructure: significant potential to re-use equipment from decommissioned oil, gas and renewables infrastructure (£30-35 billion is expected to be spent on oil and gas decommissioning by 2040)

Illustrating the economic and environmental integration of the approach, action in these priority areas is being delivered in close collaboration with Scotland’s Enterprise Agencies, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Zero Waste Scotland. The focus areas of the strategy are also aligned with the priorities of the Innovation Centres in Scotland and the Scottish Institute for Remanufacture.

Close cooperation between the Scottish Government and the delivery partners was crucial in shaping the Scottish Government’s public consultation, ‘Making things last: Creating a more circular economy in Scotland’, published in August 2015. For six months before the consultation, the Scottish Government and its partners worked to increase interest and debate through a series of workshops, seminars, media releases and the publication of evidence reports focused on different sectors.

The public consultation attracted 78 responses from industry, academia, community organisations, local government, trade organisations (representing their members’ views) and individuals. For example, while waste prevention was implicit in the consultation, some respondents argued it should have more prominence in the strategy, a recommendation the government adopted by adding a new chapter and setting the food waste reduction target. The consultation also sought views on the idea of a centre of expertise for circular economy design, but no clear vision of how that could work emerged. Instead, in line with consultation feedback, the strategy’s design focus is on providing mainstream business support and influencing decisions at EU level.

Linked to the circular economy strategy, the Scottish Manufacturing Action Plan (2016) is also encouraging manufacturing firms to adopt circular practices such as remanufacture as one of its core themes. The plans to establish a manufacturing skills academy provide a further opportunity to incorporate circular economy practices in education programmes on product design and resource use.

The Scottish Food Waste Reduction Target, to reduce food waste 33% by 2025, is the main focus of the waste prevention part of the strategy. To work towards this target Resource Efficient Scotland, part of Zero Waste Scotland, is supporting SMEs in preventing food waste and adapting to the 5kg threshold for separate food waste collection, in place since January 2016. Broader waste collection also features in the strategy. The Scottish Household Recycling Charter has been introduced to promote a consistent approach to household recycling of food, glass, paper/card and cans/plastics across all municipalities in Scotland and is gaining momentum. While implementation will take time, by July 2016 half of Scottish councils had signed the Charter. Through harmonised services based on best practice, the expectation is for increased householder participation, improved quality of recycled materials, and greater economic benefit to local authorities.

With the strategy now in place, the Scottish Government and its delivery partners are working on the priorities identified to move Scotland towards a more circular economy. This in turn will provide opportunities for businesses, communities and people across Scotland.

This case study was originally published in August 2016. Scotland was awarded a ‘Circulars’ award for Cities and Governments at the World Economic Forum in 2017. The “Making Things Last” strategy has paved the way towards the Scottish circular economy bill.

Level of Government



Including the Manufacturing Action Plan, the Circular Economy Strategy will be supported by over £70m of investment, including £30m of European Structural Funds.


Full list of targets at

Responsible Agencies

Scottish Government, in partnership with Zero Waste Scotland, Scotland’s Enterprise Agencies and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency.

Complementary Policies

Scotland’s Economic Strategy

Manufacturing Action Plan

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