CAMPAIGNERS have welcomed the appointment of the first-ever “minister for circular economy” – but warned Scotland must take urgent action over the “unsustainable” burning through of resources.

Green MSP Lorna Slater has been given responsibility for this area in her new ministerial portfolio, which also covers green skills and biodiversity.

From “leasing” light to buying grocery refills, there is an increasing focus on trying to make reusing and repairing the norm, rather than throwing away.

But Zero Waste Scotland, which campaigns for the responsible use of resources, says Scotland still has a long way to go and there is clear evidence that consumption is “unsustainably high”.

At the moment, the average Scot consumes 18.4 tonnes of materials every year – the equivalent of 50kg per week, it says.

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That is in stark contrast to estimates by experts of a sustainable level of material use, at around just eight tonnes per person per year.

The aim of the circular economy is to take an approach to life and business where nothing is wasted – adopting an approach of “make, use and remake”, as opposed to “make, use and dispose”, the organisation says.

However, it is about more than recycling, with an emphasis on changing how goods and services are delivered and preventing waste from happening in the first place.

Louise McGregor, circular economy expert and head of customer service and support at Zero Waste Scotland, said: “We know that a circular economy is one of the best solutions that we have in our toolkit.

“The goal is to convince all sectors and communities to embrace the circular economy, so the appointment of a dedicated minister will likely bring many benefits.

“The Scottish Government should be commended on being one of the first administrations to appoint a minister for the specific functions of green skills, circular economy and biodiversity.

“The Scottish Government was also one of the first governments to publish a circular economy strategy, called Making Things Last.”

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SHE added: “Now that Scotland has a circular economy champion in the cabinet, it is time for urgent action. The rate at which society is burning through resources means our current way of living is unsustainable.

“The cost of not changing the way we live will ultimately be far, far higher than the cost of making the essential changes we require.

“In terms of impact, we have a huge opportunity. Zero Waste Scotland will work closely with Ms Slater to deliver on her brief and accelerate the circular economy in Scotland.”

Zero Waste Scotland, which is a non-governmental organisation funded by the Scottish Government and European Regional Development Fund, has given support to companies to achieve “circularity”.

One example is Glasgow business EGG Lighting, which “leases light”. Instead of selling products, the company hires out fixtures and fittings and maintains them.

It means if a part breaks, the firm will repair it, and buys back fixtures when they reach the end of their useful life to refurbish them.

Another firm given support is Cirkel, which has a subscription model for cotton bedsheets aimed at hotels and other commercial operators. The old sheets are remade into bedding for pets.

The National: The new Sero Zero Waste shop at Tredegar House, Newport

However, individuals are also being urged to apply circular principles to their lifestyle – from using “zero-waste” shops (like above) which allow customers to fill reusable containers with groceries such as pasta, to leasing clothes and tools and joining car clubs.

ZERO Waste Scotland said the Scottish Government could bring in consumption-based targets to encourage people and businesses to maximise the value of existing resources.

McGregor added: “We know that a circular economy is a key part of tackling the climate crisis, as it deals with the impacts of consumption by maximising the value of goods we already have in circulation while relieving pressure on finite natural materials, like oil and precious metals.

“With the IPCC’s recent report issuing a code red for humanity, it’s time for Scotland to be a pioneer of the circular economy, just as we were a pioneer of the industrial revolution.”

Libby Peake, head of resource policy at think tank and charity Green Alliance, said: “It is great news that the new Scottish Government has elevated the concept by including it in a ministerial portfolio for the first time.

“Now they have the chance – and the responsibility – to lead by example and embed the policies to deliver on this vision.

“To create the sort of low-carbon and resource-efficient society needed for a thriving economy and healthy planet, the whole world should be striving for a more circular system where we reduce the amounts of resources that are used, we make reuse and repair the norm and we ensure unnecessary waste becomes a thing of the past.”