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McConnell to spend billions to tackle waste

Recycling target to increase from 6% to 25% By Rob Edwards, Environment Editor and Douglas Fraser, Political Editor

Scotland's reputation as a throw-away society and the 'dirty man of Europe' is about to be consigned to the rubbish bin of history under plans being drawn up by First Minister Jack McConnell.

'I feel particularly embarrassed that in Scotland we have such a shocking record on this,' McConnell told the Sunday Herald in an interview prior to leaving for the World Summit on Sustainable Development which opens in Johannesburg tomorrow. 'We live in potentially one of the best environments in the world, yet we have this appalling record on wasting resources. We need to turn that around.'

To that end the Scottish Executive will announce next month a multi-million pound investment designed to enable Scotland to quadruple the amount of waste it recycles over the next three years. The target will be to raise the amount recycled from the current level of 6% to 25%. It means that Scotland could soon be adopting the colour-coded rubbish bins found outside homes and public places in other European countries.

Last week, the Executive released figures showing that the amount of rubbish being dumped in Scottish landfill sites rose from 9.7 to 11.9 million tonnes between 1990 and 1998. Scotland's record on recycling waste has been among the worst in Europe for many years.

McConnell leaves for the summit in Johannesburg on Saturday along with Kevin Dunion, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland; Ian Russell, chief executive of Scottish Power; Damien Killeen, director of the Poverty Alliance; Belinda Miller from Aberdeen City Council; Dr Donald Bruce of the Church of Scotland; and Stephanie Wiseman, an 11-year-old schoolgirl from Shetland.

He pledged: 'I can confirm that the resources that will take us in the direction of the target of a quarter of our waste being recycled within the next few years have been assessed and will be allocated,' he said.

'Anyone who cares about the environment or about the state of society should recognise that we need a dramatic change of habits. That involves a culture change in the population as a whole.'

The First Minister declined to say exactly how much money was going to be invested, but promised it would be 'substantial'.

The details will be announced next month by the Finance Minister, Andy Kerr, when he reveals the results of the Executive's comprehensive spending review, covering the three years from next spring. This is the first detail of the priorities being set by the McConnell administration in how it decides to distribute Scotland's £8.3 billion budget increase over three years, announced in July.

The Executive has been working with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and local authorities to draw up 11 area waste plans covering the whole country. These are now being distilled into a national waste strategy which is due to be published in December.

That will show that a 25% recycling target is achievable by 2006, and that 44% could be reached by 2010 and 60% by 2020. By 2015 as much as 80% of Scotland's waste could be collected from kerbsides for recycling, compared to less than 2% now.

Achieving these levels of recycling would require billions of pounds of investment. 'I don't think this is easy, but if we don't try, what's the alternative?' argued McConnell.

McConnell also hinted that the spending review might increase investment in sustainable transport like buses, trains and cycling.

FoE Scotland's Dunion said: 'At long last we are going to see this Executive doing what previous administrations have failed to do -- to put in place the investment which gives a realistic prospect of Scotland achieving the same kind of recycling rate as a country like Denmark.'

This article was kindly providedby ScoWaste. It originally appeared in the Sunday Herald.


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