What Happens to Waste?

Waste is what we throw away because we no longer have a use for it.

What’s in your bin?

  • The average adult in Scotland produces nine times their own body weight in waste per year.
  • Up to 60% of the rubbish in our bins could be recycled.
  • The average household throws away £430 of food waste a year.

The Scottish Government has launched the Zero Waste Plan. This is a plan to get us to produce less waste, do more recycling and as a result send less waste to landfill. The aim is to have 70% of all waste recycled and only 5% sent to landfill by 2025.

What happens to our waste?

Your local authority waste management team collect your rubbish and recycling boxes and decide what to do with it. Rubbish can either be recycled, incinerated or sent to landfill.

  • Incineration is burning waste at high temperatures to reduce its volume.
  • Recyclables are sent to a Materials Recovery Centre to be sorted and sent on to manufacturers to make new things.
  • Recycling is on the increase but landfill is still the most common waste disposal method. Find out more at Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Landfill Sites

  • Landfill is an area of the ground where rubbish is stored. 
  • The site is lined with clay and plastic to keep waste from escaping into the soil. Earth is put on top of the landfill daily to reduce the smell.
  • Because it takes ages for materials in a landfill to break down, the UK is rapidly running out of space to bury our waste.
  • Despite best efforts, some liquids from the landfill leak into the soil, which can cause soil pollution.
  • Landfull sites also release methane and carbon dioxide gas, which creates air pollution and is damaging to the ozone layer.

How long does it take for waste to decompose?

  • Banana skins – 2-6 months
  • Carrier bags – 10 – 20 months
  • Cigarette butts – 10 – 50 years
  • Tin cans – 50- 100 years
  • Plastic bottles – 450 years
  • Glass bottles – 1000 years.

What can I do to reduce waste?

Think before you buy or before you throw away. What could you reduce, reuse or recycle?

Check out our Reduce, Reuse, Recycle page to find out more, or log on to the Zero Waste Scotland website.