I have no doubt that we have entered a new dawn in Scotland with the advent of the new Waste Regulations which came into force at the beginning of this year.
With an ambitious target set by the Scottish Government of 70% recycling and just 5% of waste going to landfill by 2025, the regulations are instrumental in helping us achieve this aim.
However throughout the process of raising awareness of the regulations I've found it encouraging to see a real awakening across Scotland of the financial benefits on offer through managing waste more effectively.
Indeed, many businesses and organisations now know that it makes absolute financial sense to cut down on waste and recycle wherever possible; staking their claim to some of the estimated PS192m savings on offer through businesses and organisations in Scotland becoming more savvy with how they manage their waste.
Here at Zero Waste Scotland, we have been working tirelessly to ensure that as many businesses and organisations as possible were prepared for the regulations when they came into force on 1 January.
The requirements are clear: all businesses and public sector organisations in Scotland are legally required to separate key recyclable materials including paper and card, plastic, metals and glass for recycling collection. In addition all food businesses which produce over 50kg of food waste per week must present this for separate collection unless they are located in a rural area.
Regulations are a legal requirement, but can also have the added benefit of economic benefits for organisations.
That's why it's encouraging to see businesses across Scotland, large and small, come to realize that there is real value in their waste and as a result, making changes accordingly. Whereas the majority of larger companies have been separating their waste to some extent for some time, the new regulations have perhaps been more significant for smaller companies who are now beginning to see some substantial cost savings through the new way in which they now manage their waste.
While the perception is generally that recycling more means spending more, in many cases, businesses will see a minimal change in costs and in fact there can even be additional savings.
For businesses which already recycle a couple of different materials, often adding others in to their existing contract comes at no extra cost. And by recycling more, you can afford to slim down your bin or reduce the frequency of residual waste collections, cutting the cost of waste management services.
This increasing recognition across Scotland of the financial benefits of separating waste for recycling, rather than having to pay hefty landfill charges, has perhaps been felt most keenly by the hospitality industry. This comes as no surprise as a recent report from WRAP highlighted the staggering annual cost to Scotland's hospitality and food service sector of throwing away its food waste.
By implementing ways in which food waste can be cut down and recycled rather than thrown away, the industry is set to save a staggering PS166m per annum.
Already we have seen evidence of companies within the hospitality industry making considerable savings - ranging from simple changes to bring them in line with the law, to more innovative and forward thinking approaches to help them stand out from the crowd.
* Aberdeen pub and restaurant The Mains of Scotstown has benefitted from nearly PS8,000 of yearly savings due to the implementation of unique ways of handling its waste, including encouraging the use of 'doggy boxes' and feeding food waste to their very own wormery, to then be used again to grow vegetables.
* The Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre has been able to divert 50% of its waste from landfill to be recycled, cutting out substantial landfill charges.
* The Hanging Bat, a micro brewery and beer cafe in Edinburgh, has only needed to implement a few simple measures to meet the waste regulations and by doing so has been able to reduce its waste to landfill by 90%.
* The whole ethos of Edinburgh restaurant Timberyard is built on waste prevention, with recycled and re-used materials being used to furnish the restaurant; and menus made from recycled paper being used as order pads at the end of their life, and then as fuel for their wood burning stove.
However, given that the new regulations apply to all businesses and public sector organisations in Scotland, the waste industry itself has also had to step up to the mark and lead by example in the way that they themselves operate. It's been great to be an instrumental player in facilitating this change through our new Resource Sector Commitment; and it's our ambition to see all organisations involved in providing waste or resource management services to commercial customers in Scotland sign up to this programme.
The Resource Sector Commitment is a voluntary initiative through which signatories demonstrate their support for Scotland's zero waste ambitions and state their commitment to delivering clearer and more flexible contracts, high quality, innovative resource management services and resource efficiency advice.
Social enterprise Changeworks Recycling was the first waste and resource management company to be accredited and has led by example by recycling everything where possible and using EEV low carbon vehicles which run on biofuels. Staff training has been key for the company and due to being involved in the consultation on the new Waste (Scotland) Regulations back in 2009, Changeworks has been able to be at the forefront of developments in waste regulation and has tailored how it operates accordingly.
Local authorities and private contractors including Lowmac and William Tracey Group have also signed up to the commitment. William Tracey Group has taken an innovative approach to waste collection to help make the transition to compliance easier for its customers. Their new split body vehicles collect all recyclable materials in one visit, ensuring that waste which has been carefully sorted stays segregated, whilst carbon emissions resulting from its transport are reduced.
At Zero Waste Scotland, together with our partners, the Scottish Government, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), Convention of Scotland Local Authorities (CoSLA), Scottish Environmental Services Association (SESA), Chartered Institute of Waste Management (CIWM), Federation of Small Businesses, and Scottish local authorities; we have worked hard to ensure all businesses and public sector organisations were aware of the regulations in good time to make the necessary changes to their businesses and organisations in order to be legally compliant.
I am tremendously proud of the real collaboration I've seen between all parties in raising awareness of the new waste regulations and I see this partnership going from strength to strength as the New Year continues.