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Specialist Advisory Group: Call for experts to work with Scottish Government - RESAS in addressing the issues and challenges to the circular economy as posed by Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)

Specialist Advisory Group: Call for experts to work with Scottish Government - RESAS in addressing the issues and challenges to the circular economy as posed by Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)

SEFARI Gateway Knowledge Exchange and Innovation Specialist Advisory Groups (SAGs) are interdisciplinary partnerships that respond to cross-cutting priority issues at appropriate scales and pace.

SEFARI Gateway will provide support for a new SAG with Scottish Government (RESAS) on new and emerging technologies and practices that can either remove Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) from materials, allowing them to move up the waste hierarchy, or improve separation to ensure the loss of resource is minimised as part of the circular economy.

We are looking for individuals across SEFARI, Centres of Expertise and Higher Education Institutes with relevant expertise in this area to join the project team, which will include staff from RESAS and relevant agencies. This project will also serve as a platform to build a network of experts over a longer timescale.

The deadline for this call is 5pm, 29th of June 2024.

If you require further information or have any questions related to this call, please contact: Michelle Wilson, Manager, SEFARI Gateway:  



The Scottish Government recognises that sustainable consumption and production are essential for Scotland’s transition to a low-carbon and green economy, in order to meet Scotland’s obligations to tackle the climate emergency and the biodiversity crisis. Material consumption and waste are primary drivers of nearly every environmental problem Scotland currently faces, from water scarcity to habitat and species loss. Estimates suggest around four fifths of Scotland's carbon footprint comes from the products we manufacture, consume and throw away and the services we use. A circular economy based on reducing waste, carbon emissions, and pressures on the natural environment, provides an alternative economic model.

To move Scotland’s economy away from a linear model of production, consumption and disposal, towards a system that maximises economic potential by treating waste as a resource to be cycled continually back through the economy, requires effective application of the ‘waste hierarchy’. This encourages waste prevention, followed by re-use, recycling, energy recovery, and, last of all, disposal (for example, in landfill).

Where POPs are present in goods or materials, the need to protect human and environmental health limits options when the article becomes waste, preventing movement up the waste hierarchy, and creating missed opportunities to maintain the value of these materials within the circular economy.

The UK Government is party to the UN Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), which requires Parties to take measures to eliminate or reduce the use of and release of POPs into the environment. There is evidence of the presence of POPs in a number of different waste streams, including electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), and high-levels of brominated flame retardants, including two that are listed POPs in the Stockholm Convention, in some items of waste upholstered domestic seating (WUDS). As such, these waste streams must be managed in accordance with the relevant legislation1.

The Stockholm Convention (via various UK and EU Regulations on POPs) requires waste consisting of, containing, or contaminated by POPs above a certain threshold to be managed in a way that destroys the POPs and removes their potential to cause harm to the environment, i.e. be destroyed or irreversibly transformed rather than deposited in landfill or recycled. Currently, the only available option to manage waste in a way that destroys POPs is incineration. While there is some energy recovery from the incineration of these wastes, incineration is towards the bottom of the waste hierarchy. Incineration of waste therefore represents a missed opportunity to maintain the value of these materials within the circular economy.

There are, however, emerging processes and technologies that may minimise and/or provide an alternative to the incineration of waste. Examples include technologies that can reportedly separate POPs-containing plastics from non-POPs-containing plastics, chemical recycling processes that may be able to destroy POPs allowing materials to be safely recycled, and microbial or chemical processes that could potentially be used to breakdown some forms of PFAS (per and poly fluorinated alkyl substances).  



The convening of this SAG seeks to address issues and challenges to the circular economy as posed by POPs by considering new and emerging technologies (or practices) that can either remove POPs from materials, allowing them to move up the waste hierarchy, or improve separation to ensure the loss of resource is minimised. 

Specifically the SAG seeks to:

  • Identify current and emerging technologies that could improve Scotland’s ability to identify and separate POPs materials (including at waste collection and treatment centres).
  • Identify current and emerging technologies that could be used to treat waste/materials containing POPs, with an emphasis on moving material up the waste hierarchy.
  • Summarise the potential benefits and limitations of each technology (e.g. cost, carbon intensity) within a Scottish context, the range of materials that the technology may be applied to and suggest a ‘Technology Readiness Level’ for each technology assessed.
  • Drawing on international experience where applicable, and/or relevant experience from other technology sectors, identify opportunities for Scotland to create an effective R&D and implementation environment to drive progress in this area.



Following establishment, the Specialist Advisory Group (SAG) will meet with the Steering Group - Scottish Government (SG), core-stakeholders (incl. ZWS, SEPA) and SEFARI Gateway - to agree the scope of research (set context specific to Scotland) and define priority waste streams.

The SAG is thereafter expected to liaise regularly with the steering group. Liaison and discussion with waste-industry stakeholders including workshops that widen industry and other stakeholder input are also necessary for the SAG to deliver its work. SG also work closely with counterparts across Devolved Governments and relevant findings will be shared as appropriate. 



Findings (as short reports or briefings) will be communicated, as relevant to teams within Scottish Government at various stages throughout the project.

At conclusion, a SEFARI Case Study will be produced to detail the process and recommendations of the group.

This project will also serve as an exemplar on accessing scientific expertise to inform Scottish Government policy within the Circular Economy area, which if successful, can be replicated to inform future circular economy needs, and will be a key step in developing a network of expertise in this field.



The SAG will operate for an initial period of approximately 8 months (commencing  10th July 2024 to 14th March 2025).

Extension of the SAG may be requested by SG, though joining this SAG does not commit any individual to continuance beyond the March 2025.


Resources and Commitment:

  • The SAG is funded to £25,000 to cover time of the Chair and Secretariat (to be appointed) and for SAG Members to be able to claim a half (£154) or full-day (£304) rate for work undertaken on the SAG.
  • Travel and subsistence costs necessitated by the SAG will be reimbursed separately by SEFARI Gateway.
  • Workshop costs will be supported separately (subject to submission of costing) by SEFARI Gateway (to a maximum of £5,000).
  • As a guide, SAG members should expect to commit an equivalent of 7 days of time to direct meetings, contributing to reports and respond to emails or other ad hoc stakeholder consultation up to March 2025.


Applications are sought from individuals across a spectrum of expertise and which can include but is not limited to:

  • Organic pollutants
  • Circular economy
  • Waste processing systems and technologies
  • Environmental toxicology
  • Microbiology (industrial processing)
  • Economics (as pertaining to waste management)
  • Waste Regulation


How to apply for SAG membership

All applicants should supply a letter of introduction as to why they are interested in joining the SAG along with a CV. Applicants should follow their home institution’s procedures for permissions to join advisory groups.

SAG involvement is open to:

  • Researchers funded as part of the Strategic Research Portfolio: SEFARI staff (BioSS, James Hutton Institute, Moredun Research Institute, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Rowett Institute and SRUC); and the Centres of Expertise (ClimateXChange, CREW, EPIC, and Plant Health Centre).
  • Staff within any UK Higher Education Institution.
  • Please note, you do not need to have been previously funded by Scottish Government via the Portfolio to qualify for SEFARI Gateway funding.


Applications should be emailed to by 1700 on June 29th 2024.

A panel composed of SAG Steering Group members will review applications shortly after the deadline. Decisions will be communicated to applicants within two weeks of the application deadline.


[1] SEPA has published guidance to support compliance with the relevant legislation. For WEEE guidance, see:; for WUDS guidance, see: