Report shows significance of built environment to Scotland’s circular economy


‘SWEEPING changes’ are required in Scotland’s built environment and construction sector if the country is to transition to a circular economy, Zero Waste Scotland has warned.

It comes as part of its circularity gap report, which details how the built environment currently contributes over 50% of Scotland’s overall waste. It adds that it is an ‘essential pillar’ in moving to a circular economy, and that reusing materials and reducing waste on site are ‘major’ areas for action.

The call to action for the industry comes at the same time as Zero Waste Scotland launches a new tool to make one of those key actions – reducing site waste – easier to carry out, measure, and quantify.

The site waste reduction protocol will look to help construction professionals accurately measure and classify site waste, identify what it has cost the business in terms of cash, and help take steps to prevent those losses for a more profitable and sustainable business.

The newly published circularity gap report sets out in detail why that is so important for Scotland’s economy. The report shows that only 1.3% of the resources Scotland uses are cycled back into the economy, with over 98.7% of Scotland’s material use coming from virgin resources.

This in addition to Scotland’s per capita material footprint is nearly double the global average. However, Zero Waste Scotland said by making construction more efficient in the use of materials and resources, using housing more efficiently, and giving materials a longer life, we could reduce Scotland’s overall material use by 11.2% and reduce its carbon footprint by 11.5%.

It added that the big wins for the construction sector are in keeping materials in use for longer through more modular building design and designing materials to be easy to disassemble and re-use, and also in reducing the huge volumes of wasted materials that occur.

The site waste reduction protocol is specifically designed to tackle the latter and consists of an Excel-based calculator tool designed by industry specialists, that helps site staff record and quantify everything that is being wasted.

The protocol itself is a method for how to best use the calculator for accurate results, which includes guidance on monitoring skips, estimating quantities and classifying material types.

Once a user has collected enough data, the calculator can produce reports that show what types of materials are being wasted most often, how much these have cost the business, and gives the data needed to calculate how much this is adding to the carbon footprint of your business.

Zero Waste Scotland’s Stephen Boyle said, “The Circularity Gap Report shows us in no uncertain terms how much of a problem material waste is for the construction sector, but it can be hard to know where to start in tacking it effectively.

“The Site Waste Reduction Protocol sets out a simple and robust method for getting a comprehensive picture of what materials are being wasted and where, and which ones are costing you the most financially and environmentally.

“This allows construction professionals to target action on specific materials, and do it based on their either financial or environmental priorities.”