Speaking during the Resource Revolution panel debate, hosted last week, Defra’s director of climate, waste and atmosphere Dr Church said: “We have to be very careful because we are in a time of paucity of public funds, so if you ask me what the Government are going to do, one of my answers is not going to be – get some money out.”

“This is a time when we are looking for business-led solutions and not a time of saying ‘we have got a problem here, so let the Government solve it for me,’ that is not the space we are in here and now.”

Asked by a delegate whether the Government would provide incentives for moving to a circular economy, Dr Church reiterated that while it could investigate drivers and possible approaches, it was more of a case of “the people on the ground” driving the revolution and that government “was not always trusted”.

Another panellist, WRAP’s director of design and waste prevention Dr Richard Swannell, said that the White Paper ‘Closing the loop: risk or reward?’, published by edie, demonstrated that the circular economy could “provide a real framework for innovative thinking, giving us an opportunity to look at things in a slightly different way, which actually increases resilience and competitiveness.”

Dr Swannell also noted that according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s report, a move towards a circular economy could save the EU between £220bn and £250bn a year. 

“The opportunity does seem to be there and it is significant,” he said.

Dr Swannell added: “One component is actually reducing the amount of products that go into items in the first place and minimising waste right across the lifecycle.

“The second thing is encouraging the reuse of durable items such as electrical items and textiles.

“There is already significant business developing in the reuse of mobile phones and tablets but is there a way of extending that more widely and getting real value out?”

“Central to all this is design. It about is using the circular economy framework to think how you can get the best value for the material, going right round the loop and designing things so that they generate less waste using resources that can be reused, remanufactured or recycled.”

Conor McGlone

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