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Manage waste sustainability by reducing, reusing, recycling and recovering waste to improve resource efficiency whilst working towards a circular economy.

The Scottish Government aim - to make Scotland a zero waste society with a circular economy - means minimising the population’s demand on primary resources and maximising reuse, recycling and recovery of resources instead of treating them as waste. 

By 2025 Scotland will:

  • reduce total waste arising in Scotland by 15% against 2011 levels
  • reduce food waste by 33% against 2013 levels
  • recycle 70% of remaining waste
  • send no more than 5% of remaining waste to landfill


Both the Scottish and UK Governments plan to implement new legislation which will push all councils, businesses and manufacturers towards greater recycling rates. These are:

These measures should all help to embed a recycling and minimal waste culture all down the line from producer to consumer and disposer. By 1 January 2025, the Scottish Government will impose a complete ban on all biodegradable waste entering landfill.

In East Ayrshire municipal and commercial waste currently collected by the Council accounts for 42% of our carbon footprint. A large proportion of this is due to non-recycled waste being disposed of in landfill. The quickest way to change will be switching our biodegradable waste to “energy from waste” plants. 

What we’ve done so far to encourage recycling

Introducing recycling trolleys put us at the forefront of Scottish councils in actively promoting recycling. View our recycling trolley video below.

By making it easier for residents to recycle, we’ve already increased the proportion of aluminium, glass and plastics that we collect.

In 2021/22 we collected just over 53k tonnes of household waste. Of this we were able to recycle 19k tonnes and divert a further 5k tonnes through pre-treatment. This meant we sent 34k tonnes to landfill; 27k tonnes of which came from household general waste bins that likely contained recyclable waste such as plastics or food waste

We don’t currently have a local energy from waste plant capable of processing our waste, so we’re working with other local authorities and the private sector to find a cost-effective solution which complies with legislation and zero carbon targets. We’re also actively encouraging greater levels of recycling by:

  • promoting digitalisation of services and remote learning as an alternative to reduce our consumption of paper and books
  • introducing recycling bins in our own offices and schools as we seek to implement a common approach to recycling across all services
  • working with our catering service to reduce use of plastics
  • introducing “Waste Warriors” to reduce waste and champion recycling in our schools
  • introducing 'Reduce, Recycle and Reuse' as a core theme throughout our schools and early years centres using initiatives like:
    • litter awareness programmes
    • uniform/equipment swaps
    • playground recycling
    • reducing and ultimately banning single use plastics in our educational centres
  • promoting the Real Nappy Scheme to new parents together with NHS Ayrshire and Arran
  • expanding our existing recycling offer to include new opportunities to recycle materials such as plastic film and bed mattresses

Cleaner Communities review

When we reviewed our waste management service, we found that in some communities up to 50% of our households are not using their food caddies. We recently analysed the composition of our waste and this revealed that 30% of the weight of the waste in residual (green) waste bins comprised avoidable or unavoidable food waste.

This behaviour costs us all both environmentally and  financially, costing the Council an extra £500k disposal cost per year and adding an  estimated  £470 per annum to each household’s food bill as a result of throwing away food that could have been eaten.

New technology in the cabs of our waste collection vehicles allows us to identify households that are not recycling food waste and we are keen to work with our communities to encourage everyone to recycle or dispose of their food waste properly and safely.

What we’re doing about food waste video

 In East Ayrshire we currently recycle about 3.5k tonnes of household food waste per year. To help improve our recycling rates we’re:

  • encouraging people to reduce the amount of food they don’t eat and throw away (avoidable food waste)
  • using education and campaigns to raise awareness
  • providing recipes for leftovers
  • making it easier for everyone to recycle unavoidable food waste (such as vegetable peelings) by providing food waste bins and garden composters

Although much of the media focus has been on the damaging impact of plastics, food waste actually poses a greater threat to the planet. When food waste ends up in landfill, it releases methane gas, which is a significant cause of climate change. To help reduce the volume of food waste generated in the first place, we have created a clean green eco cook book (PDF 4.42Mb) suitable for chefs of all abilities which encourage good food habits.

Love Food Hate Waste campaign video

Onthank Primary School pupils and staff talk about their Love Food Hate Waste campaign.

The idea of food waste audits was shared by Onthank Primary (silver award winners at the Clean Green School Awards 2022) pupils at our most recent Youth Climate Conference and has been rolled out in schools across East Ayrshire to encourage positive recycling habits in a fun way.

Stop Food Waste Day 2023

To celebrate Stop Food Waste Day we followed the processes used at the Central Production Unit (CPU) by Eating in East Ayrshire which ensure that meals provided to early childhood centres (ECCs) do not create food waste.

Our target

We aim to reduce food waste in our residual waste by 10% (780 tonnes per annum) in each of the next five years to achieve a 50% reduction on current levels.

The circular economy - promoting re-use

The facts

  • Four-fifths of Scotland’s carbon footprint comes from products and materials
  • The production, consumption and waste of these products and materials are heating the earth at an alarming rate
  • This includes the energy required to grow, make, process and transport products and materials, whether they are made here in Scotland or elsewhere
  • Climate change doesn’t respect borders, it affects everyone
  • Roughly three planets would be required if everyone lived the way people live in Scotland -  we only have one

Zero Waste Scotland is promoting a circular economy in response to the problem of waste.

What is a circular economy?

A circular economy is one in which products, services and systems are designed to maximise their value and minimise waste. Products last longer when they are reused, repaired, remanufactured or recycled. There should be no waste in a truly circular economy. Reuse and repair are essential in the development of Scotland’s circular economy.

Although often confused, reuse and recycling are not the same. Reuse of products and materials is more beneficial as it retains a product’s inherent value by keeping it in use for longer. This minimises waste, creates jobs, has a positive social impact and reduces consumption and associated carbon impacts.

We already support the reuse of waste in partnership with the Cumnock and Doon Valley Gift Furniture scheme and Cunninghame Housing Association which both reuse furniture and other goods. We also have a variety of contracts to recycle and/or reuse electronic and other products.

What else are we doing?

The next step will be to explore the introduction of reuse centres at the proposed new Household Waste Recycling Centre at Caponacre in Cumnock and at our existing facility in Western Road, Kilmarnock.

Reminding all of East Ayrshire that the general waste bin should not be the default choice but the last resort for any household waste.

More information

Have your say

Tell us what you think by taking part in our Climate Change Strategy Consultation.

Contact Information


Council Headquarters
London Road
East Ayrshire