A study by Zero Waste Scotland found that despite a “significant investment” in kerbside recycling systems, Scots threw away approximately 670,000 tonnes of waste that could have been sent for recycling.
That is the equivalent of more than 275 kg of waste – more than 10 full wheelie bins – per household per year.
With councils having to pay to send rubbish to landfill, the cost to local authorities would be about £54m a year, according to Zero Waste Scotland.
The figures were revealed in a new report looking at what households across the country put into kerbside collection bins in 2014-15 – with the organisation stating the figures are still “broadly representative of the scale of the issue”.
A total of 1.78 million tonnes of material were put into traditional waste bins and various recycling bins – with food waste making up almost a quarter (23 per cent) of that at just under 410,000 tonnes.
Food waste, old paper and cardboard, garden waste and empty glass jars and bottles made up 68 per cent of everything that was put into household bins.
The Zero Waste Scotland report said: “We estimate that approximately 670,000 tonnes, or just under 60 per sent of the residual waste, is made up of waste types that could typically have been recycled with existing kerbside recycling services.”
Typically only just over a quarter (27 per cent) of left over food is put into food waste bins – despite more than 80 per cent of homes now having one of these.
In addition 15,000 tonnes of PET plastics drinks bottles were found in residual waste bins, which could have been worth between £375,000 and £1.95m if they were recycled, according to Zero Waste Scotland.
The report said: “Our analysis suggests that despite significant investment in kerbside recycling services in recent years, a significant number of households are still not using recycling services to their full potential.”
Iain Gulland, chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland, said: “This report highlights a huge opportunity for all of us to continue to make the right choices when it comes to our waste.
“Recycling is the right thing to do for our environment and our economy – and I would urge everyone to resolve to recycle more in 2018. It’s an easy thing to do, and something you can rightly feel good about.
“The report clearly shows that recycling more food waste is something we can all do better. When food waste goes to landfill it degrades and emits greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change.”
Scotland’s environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “I support Zero Waste Scotland’s call for us all to recycle even more in 2018. As a nation, we are working towards an ambitious target to recycle 70 per cent of all waste by 2025, with no more than 5 per cent to go to landfill.
“The findings of this report clearly show us where we need to focus our collective efforts – bringing us closer to those targets and generating benefits for our economy, our communities and our environment.”
The Scottish government has already confirmed plans to bring in a deposit return scheme for drink bottles, and Ms Cunningham said this had “real potential to increase recycling even further”.
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