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One Planet Opportunity

20th September 2016

Viridor today (21st September) backed the Scottish EPA’s (SEPA’s) new One Planet Prosperity regulatory strategy.  Martin Grey, Head of Media Relations and Public Affairs, talks exclusively to Herald Scotland.

With a current and planned investment of some £500 million in Scotland’s waste and recycling capabilities, waste specialist Viridor, part of the Pennon Group, believes it has a key role to play in SEPA’s new “One Planet” strategy.

Martin Grey, Head of Media Relations & Public Affairs at Viridor, said that Viridor’s investment is due, in no small way, to the leadership on sustainability and the circular economy shown by the Scottish Government.

“Scotland has set world-leading targets for sustainability, resource efficiency and the circular economy (which turns waste into new commodity streams),” Grey comments. Forward thinking legislative initiatives, such as the world-leading Climate Change (Scotland) Act, passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament in 2009, and Scotland’s Circular Economy strategy, published in February this year have positioned Scotland in the forefront of global efforts to achieve sustainability, Grey says.

Vision on this scale requires very substantial investment to enable it to progress. “Viridor already has a £100 million asset base in Scotland and is in the middle of an investment programme that will increase that sum five-fold,” Grey notes.

“The circular economy is vital both from a sustainability standpoint and because it addresses resource security. This is not about “green-for-green’s-sake”, but builds on the fact that green initiatives are good for Scotland’s economic growth,” he adds.

“Viridor’s glass recycling facility at Newhouse, North Lanarkshire is an example of what is possible when the Scottish Government, SEPA, Scottish Enterprise, Zero Waste Scotland, the Scottish whisky sector, councils and corporates align,” he comments.

The facility – acknowledged as the UK’s most advanced glass recycling plant, and one of only three world-wide – was opened in September 2015 by Scottish Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead.

Grey notes that the Scottish Government has a vision to boost the sustainability of Scotland’s largest export, namely whisky, and to demonstrate just what the circular economy can mean in practice to a vital industry.

The Newhouse site is particularly interesting because it was formerly a major environmental problem. “SEPA was managing the legacy of a former waste crime site there before we started construction. By working together, aligning policy, Scotland has secured a £25 million, world-class, clean-tech investment, transformed a blighted site and aligned Scottish recycling with the sustainability of Scotch, an enduring brand if ever there was one!” he comments.

In addition to Newhouse, Viridor’s £154 million Glasgow Recycling and Renewable Energy Centre (GRREC) being built at Polmadie will boost recycling in Scotland’s largest city whilst diverting some 90% of green bin residual waste away from landfill, saving millions of pounds. The facility transforms waste into heat and power, producing enough energy to power the equivalent of 22,000 households and heat some 8,000 homes.

Meanwhile at Dunbar, East Lothian the firm’s £177 million Energy Recovery Facility (ERF), also under construction, will divert residual waste from landfill, generating some 30MW of base-load renewable energy direct to the grid – the equivalent of 30 wind turbines, and enough to power 39,000 homes.

Grey says Viridor is solidly behind SEPA’s One Planet Prosperity strategy. “Not only does it align with Scotland’s bold environmental and economic vision, it’s a real global first and game changer for Scottish business – a signal that Scotland is open for business, is focused on investment and growth, and stands with organisations seeking to align economic, environmental and community benefit.”

Grey adds: “SEPA’s new strategy seizes on the opportunity of the Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Act to build on Scotland’s legacy of innovation and engagement to embed responsible, sustainable business entrepreneurship in organisational ecosystems. The strategy is bold and ambitious. For Scotland’s public, private and voluntary sectors, it is an exciting opportunity to work together to harness shared opportunities for economic growth.”

Grey argues that a striking instance of the way in which the new policy is turning into an active programme capable of making a real difference, is Scotland’s inaugural Sustainability Leadership Development Programme, held in partnership with Stirling University.

“The Programme represents a partnership between the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and the University of Stirling Management School, and was one of the first products from the newly formed Stirling Centre for Sustainable Practice and Living,” Grey says.

In his view, the Centre, like the sustainable leadership development programme, is a clear demonstration that Bob Downes, SEPA’s chairman, and CEO Terry A’Hearn, mean business. The programme’s goal is to stimulate current and next generation leaders to address key sustainability challenges.

“One of the most memorable statements to emerge from the Programme was A’Hearn’s warning that as the 21st Century progresses, the only profitable businesses will be those who see the environment and social issues as massive market opportunities,” he comments.

As one of the programme’s first cohort of business leaders, Grey was particularly impressed by the course and by what he sees as its capacity to get business leaders thinking creatively about sustainability issues. “Returning to my workplace brought some fresh thinking on the challenges and opportunities ahead. More than that it brought an enhanced awareness of what sustainability means, why it matters and why partnership is key to success,” he comments.

Grey adds: “Current and next generation leaders in our schools, communities, councils, our media, Parliament, public, private and voluntary sectors and beyond will clearly be key to building the one planet economy in Scotland.”

And on the future, Grey is optimistic : “Scotland is a great place to live, work, invest and do business. With clear direction from government and enabling, one planet prosperity regulation from SEPA I’m confident that Scotland can achieve seize this one planet opportunity.”

Published in Herald Scotland on 21st September 2017 and reproduced with permission from Herald Scotland.

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