The latest figures published by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) show that in 2020, Aberdeenshire Council sent 65,500 tonnes of household waste to landfill. That’s 57 per cent of the household waste generated in the area.
Only Highland Council (59.2 per cent) and Na h-Eileanan Siar (65.1 per cent) disposed of a higher percentage of their waste in landfill.
The amount of household waste recycled by the council fell slightly in 2020, but although its 40.8 per cent recycling rate is marginally below the average for Scotland, it is broadly similar to most local authority areas.
Where Aberdeenshire Council falls down is in its failure to divert waste away from landfill in other ways – just 2.2 per cent of waste not recycled is diverted from landfill.
Some councils – such as City of Edinburgh, Dumfries & Galloway, Dundee City, North Lanarkshire, Scottish borders and Shetland Islands – have found ways to divert around half their waste from landfill.
However, this is something Aberdeenshire Council is currently working to rectify in a joint project with neighbouring authorities Moray and Aberdeen City.
An Aberdeenshire Council spokesperson said: “The 2020 household recycling rate for Aberdeenshire is 40.8 per cent. This is a drop from our 2019 rate of 44 per cent but is reflective of the trend across the majority of Scottish local authorities.
“Overall, the Scottish average has dropped from 44.9 per cent to 42 per cent, which is indicative of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on household waste and recycling services – for example, the closure of household recycling centres.
“We continue to seek new opportunities for waste reduction and divert waste from landfill where possible.
“In recent years, we have introduced two trial recycling programmes of polystyrene and rigid plastics at certain recycling centres.
“We have also partnered with Aberdeen City and Moray Council on the construction of an Energy from Waste facility, which will further divert waste from landfill upon its completion.”
Terry A’Hearn, SEPA chief executive said: “How we use resources in our homes, workplaces, public services and private sector can have a real impact on Scotland’s environment. Whilst It’s positive that for a ninth consecutive year we see a move from landfill, the latest data does reflect the realism of the public health emergency.
“What’s important is not the past, but what we do next. We’ve shown that by working together, we can rise to the challenge of a healthcare emergency. We need now to show that we can do this again in tackling the climate crisis.”
Iain Gulland, chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland, said the closure of household recycling centres appeared to have had the greatest impact on recycling rates.
However, he added: “The good news is that the volume of materials collected for recycling at the kerbside increased, showing that there is a keen appetite to recycle more amongst householders.
“As we move out of the initial shock to services caused by the pandemic, we need to redouble our collective efforts to increase the national recycling rate, with improved infrastructure and continued engagement with householders.”