WHERE there’s muck there’s, brass, rings the old saying, but now it has emerged that waste and by-products generated in Scotland – more than 27 million tonnes of biomaterials – could add hundreds of millions of pounds to the country’s economy.

A new report Biorefining Potential for Scotland, from Zero Waste Scotland, gives a detailed insight into the “circular economy” potential for waste products in the bioeconomy sector.

The group, which supports the Scottish Government’s target of reducing food waste by a third by 2025, said Scotland is recognised as a world leader in the circular economy, which is aimed at limiting waste by keeping materials and products in “high-value use” for as long as possible.

Maximising value from “bio resources” is seen as a priority area, with the best chance of delivering economic, environmental and social benefits for Scotland in Holyrood’s circular economy strategy, Making Things Last.

It is estimated up to an additional £800 million could be generated for the economy by using food and drink by-products alone.

With the right investment, the report said residues from whisky production such as pot ale, food waste from households and hospitality, agricultural residues such as animal manure and unused or misshapen fruit and vegetables, could be put to good use. This can also apply to wastewater sludge from sewage treatment facilities.

The report highlights opportunities for new job creation in Scotland, particularly in rural and coastal areas where many of the waste materials are found.

Publication of the report coincided with the launch of the dedicated Scottish Bio-Resource Support Service by Scottish Enterprise, which gives data on the type, quantity and location of “bio” materials in Scotland.

Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said she was delighted at the opportunities biorefining presented: “We need to stop seeing waste and start seeing opportunities.

“These resources are important and can make high-value chemical products like plastics, paints, plane parts and aviation fuels, with Scotland now considered to be a leader in industrial biotechnology development. “The Scottish Government and our agencies are committed to helping businesses seize these and other opportunities in the circular economy. Zero Waste Scotland’s £18m Circular Economy Investment Fund and the newly launched Scottish Bio-Resource Service are key to this.”

Iain Gulland, Zero Waste Scotland’s chief executive, said: “Scotland is building an impressive portfolio of circular economy business models, with entrepreneurs already offering products as diverse as fuel from whisky by-products and beer from unsold bread on the commercial market.

“This report will help showcase our burgeoning portfolio to a global audience – as well as demonstrating the opportunities available to develop new, sustainable and profitable circular economy businesses in Scotland.”

Caroline Strain, industrial biotechnology lead at Scottish Enterprise, added: “As these feedstocks could enable a transition from fossil to bio-based materials, this will be a crucial factor in helping Scotland achieve its ambitions to create a sustainable high value chemical manufacturing sector.”