Unsustainable consumption

trees

With just over a year to go before the Deposit Return Scheme is scheduled to go live in Scotland, Zero Waste Scotland has published a new report, The Scottish Material Flow Accounts, that reveals the size of the country’s consumption footprint for the first time.

The report shows the average Scot consumes 18.4 tonnes of materials every year – that’s the equivalent of 50kg per week on average.

Academics agree that a sustainable level of material use, which would still allow for a high quality of life, is about eight tonnes per person per year.

The analysis reveals the materials extracted from Scotland’s natural environment every year, as well as those which are imported, exported, and wasted.

The Scottish MFA report paints a picture of the scale and nature of Scotland’s consumption by calculating all the raw materials used to make products (e.g. oil and metal ores) and all the finished products consumed, whether made in Scotland or imported.

Iain Gulland, Chief Executive of Zero Waste Scotland, said: “What the MFA tell us is that consumption in Scotland is unsustainably high. This is, in part, due to the quantity of things we buy. We need a system wide change that enables us all to choose more sustainable ways to live, use the things we need and share resources.”

Kimberley Pratt, Zero Waste Scotland environmental analyst and report author, added: “It is also due to the amounts of materials it takes to extract raw materials and manufacture new products. These processes are resource-intensive, but those costs are not obvious when we look only at the finished product. For example, 25 tonnes of iron ore must be mined to produce one tonne of iron which the average Scot might consume as steel in products such as the buildings we live and work in, cars and electrical appliances.

“This highlights the negative environmental impacts of our production processes and consumption habits which favour using new goods made from virgin materials rather than re-used or repaired goods, or goods made from recycled materials or from remanufacturing.”

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