EXCLUSIVE: Circular Economy Task Force to put policy reform in the spotlight

The newly appointed chair of the Circular Economy Task Force has revealed that changing Government policy will be the central focus of a 'new and ambitious phase' for the business-led group in the run-up to the next General Election.

Sue Armstrong-Brown, who was unveiled as the new chair less than two weeks into her job as policy director of Green Alliance, admitted there are still a range of systemic barriers to the UK adopting the circular economy model – and policy is at the heart of overcoming them.

“The Task Force has been very effective in getting the conversation started,” Armstrong-Brown told edie. “But what I’d hope to achieve in the next two-year phase is to come up with some really clear, achievable, deliverable steps for the next Government to put into place to support the circular economy.

“There are things that could be done at a policy level that would enable it to happen better and faster – that’s what we’re going to be focusing on. Targets can be a useful driver for behaviour change, but they’re not the only one and they might not be the most important thing to implement.”

Opportunity gap

The Circular Economy Task Force, which was established by the Green Alliance in 2012, released its first report, Resource resilient UK, which identified the barriers to business becoming more resilient, profitable and sustainable through better resource productivity. It’s second report, released earlier this year, explored how addressing the UK’s ‘broken recycling system’ can foster higher value reprocessing, and begin to encourage more valuable remanufacturing and redesign.

For its third report, Armstrong-Brown explained the group will be looking at the role and influence of government institutions and the reforms necessary to bring about a step-change in the UK resource management.

“Our first two reports really highlighted the opportunity gap for the circular economy. Now, we want to develop some policy solutions that close that gap. We’re in touch with Defra and BIS for this new analysis and as results come out we’ll be having conversations with them about the options we’ve come up with to progress – we can, at the very least, stimulate some conversation. The findings will be released relatively soon.”

Learning from abroad

The second key area for the Task Force will be in information sharing with the rest of the EU. Armstrong-Brown wants to put the spotlight on countries such as Germany, Holland and France, where circular-economy thinking is a step ahead of the UK.

“There are definitely some things we can learn from Western Europe,” she added. “In some areas, our European counterparts are way ahead. The more we can share information about resources with those countries, the more we can borrow good practices and the more we can work together to make sure there’s a common standard for resource use and recycling.

Last week’s announcement of Armstrong-Brown’s new role came on the same day that the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s (EFRA) released a new report which slammed the current Government for ‘stepping back’ from waste; claiming England needs stronger leadership in order to improve recycling rates – making this additional policy focus from the Task Force all-the-more important.

Luke Nicholls

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