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What we can learn from Scotland about a circular economy?



I am late to the practice of recycling. My early efforts were sporadic based on my convenience, availability of recycling locations and drop-off times. I rationalized, “How could just one person impact a world problem?” 

A trip to Scotland piqued my curiosity and changed my thinking. I stayed in the small village of Wigtown. Each morning, every household had a sealed blue bucket by the curb. I was to learn that this was part of a food collection project. Collected food wastes are taken to plants where, through a natural process, anaerobic digestion (AD), micro-organisms break down organic matter in oxygen-free sealed vessels. This generates a biogas which can be used directly in engines, in the same way as natural gas, or as vehicle fuel. AD is now powering 130,000 Scottish homes, according to trade association ADBA. 

Further research showed me that this small nation of “thrifty Scotsmen” are leading the world in their Zero Waste Program. Scotland has a national target to achieve a 70% recycling rate by 2025. Around 40% of Scotland’s household waste is currently recycled. Importantly, the Scottish government has energetically supported local authorities in driving up recycling rates. 

Our linear economy is mainly “take, make and dispose.” We take resources from the ground, air and water; make them into products; then dispose of them. Scotland is a leader in promoting a circular economy that reducesthe demand for raw materials in products, promotes reuse and repair, and encourages manufacturers to design products that last as long as possible. Innovative recycling methods maximize the value of any waste that is generated. 

Some Scottish businesses are already adopting the circular economy concept by introducing re-use and repair services, or leasing goods to customers rather than selling them. This will affect the types of things that end up as waste. Everyone – individuals, the public and business sectors – are asked to minimize use of primary resources and maximize reuse, recycling and recovery. To reduce the amount of waste, buying used and refurbished is encouraged. 

With very little searching, I discovered how easy it is to find recycling locations in Monroe County. There are regular times to recycle almost every type of material. RecycleNOW is a countywide, free, drop-off program. It is a single-stream program which means all items go in the bin loosely, not bagged or stuffed into other items. They are sorted at the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). 

The program accepts empty, clean, and drymaterials: flattened cardboard, paper, metal cans, rigid plastic containers (#1, #2 and #5), and glass bottles and jugs. 

The following times and locations include: 

  • Every Tuesday: Bedford Township Hall, 8100 Jackman Road, Temperance. Bedford also has an electronics recycling drop-off of smaller items. Microwave ovens and other electronic waste items that are too big for the Recycle IT bin at the Bedford Township Hall can be dropped off at the ReStore. 
  • Every Wednesday: Monroe Charter Township Hall, 4925 E. Dunbar Road, Monroe. 
  • First and Third Monday of the month: Dundee Kroger, 571 E Monroe Street, Dundee. 
  • Second Tuesday of the month: St. Joseph Catholic Church, 2238 Manhattan Street, Erie. 
  • Every Tuesday and Thursday: Stevens Disposal, 16929 Ida West Road, Petersburg. 

Recycling options for many other specialty items like medical waste, household cleaners, motor oil and electronics can be found on the website—Free-Drop-off-Recycling 

After witnessing what steps a small nation is making to use and reuse resources, I have resolved to emulate my thrifty ancestors in making recycling a part of my weekly schedule. I am also going to reassess what products really need to be purchased and what resources are used to produce them. Yes, one person can take small steps to make a difference. 

Mary Bullard is a retired librarian and member of Stronger Together Huddle, a group engaged in supporting and promoting the common good. She resides in Temperance and can be reached at 

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