How to win the war on waste in the UK

Many EU senior officials are now saying that the move to a circular economy is an economic and environmental necessity. As fossil fuels subsidies come to an end and the UK triggers Article 50, there is a sense of urgency to create a society where nothing is wasted to ensure we don't fall behind the rest of Europe and the world in our actions to save the planet.

How to win the war on waste in the UK

There is a clear case being presented as to how the UK needs to create its own, self-sustaining energy supply. However, the scale of the circular economy is vaster than people first realised – it’s not quite as simple to achieve this sustainable environment as it’s made out.

Firstly, delivering a circular economy poses a major supply chain challenge. You need to be able to capture secondary resources to feed them back into the loop. Without the right processes in place it’s easy for gaps to exist and miss opportunities to bring back waste for future use.

Secondly, there is the question of whether the process of recycling is local or international. For example, a London-based company may ship paper from a paper plant in France to make its paper cups. Card might be produced from a mill in China and shipped to the UK to be used. But then that card is shipped back to China to be recycled to make more card. And the cycle continues.

There are opportunities to recycle locally, even if the production value comes from elsewhere and this means it’s possible to carry out micro-local activities that benefit global and international trade. The supply chain challenge means international markets must work together if the circular economy is to become a reality.

Local partners

In all instances the waste industry must ensure resources go round in the circular economy. So to serve today’s global marketplace, there must be a local to global waste industry to link this up. Products must be reused and the process to get that product to its second use must also be sustainable.  

For example, we’ve partnered with Bio-Bean to deliver a coffee-to-biofuel recycling scheme for Caffè Nero. We provide Caffè Nero with special recycling sacks for used coffee grounds, we collect them and then pass then on to Bio-Bean for processing into advanced biofuels. Initiatives like this show that the circular economy can be achieved when value networks are created locally and highlight that partnerships may be the best way forward.

Innovation to combat waste

With green technology companies working together, there is an opportunity to look at the supply chain, identify where it is going wrong and use alliances to see how companies can work together to achieve a bigger goal.

Businesses will be more likely to become part of a circular economy when it is made simple for them to achieve. Partnerships can provide access to new skills, suppliers and ways of working.

If the circular economy is about creating sustainable processes just as much as products, relationships have to be built to achieve this. Businesses must be prepared to collaborate with other players to initiate new ideas and develop innovation that makes the circular economy a reality. This benefits the wider ecosystem, not just the companies involved, because there is a new way of thinking about the supply chain to reuse these resources. 

Ultimately, if the circular economy is going to become tangible, all sustainability and services companies need to focus on the mantra; ‘make, produce and recycle’.  Sustainability advocates must create a blueprint for what this new economy will look like, and how different sectors and services need to ‘join the dots’. It’s easier than ever to build relationships in today’s digital world and it’s up to companies in our space to create social and environmental impact with these partnerships.

People sometimes forget that recycling companies are the crucial link in the circular economy. They must not be underestimated. With the latest technological innovations, recycling can become a critical part of a more modernised environmental infrastructure and economy. Innovation in recycling and working with partners when it’s necessary to be able to achieve that, is key to cementing the circular economy.

edie’s Resource Management Month

March is edie’s Resource Management Month, with a series of exclusive interviews, features and podcasts running throughout the month to drill down on the most effective ways of driving a resource revolution.

From recycling and recovery to closed-loop solutions, our Resource Management Month will explore the various ways businesses can help to deliver an economy that has moved away from ‘take, make, waste’ to a circular economy-based model based on resource efficiency, re-use and redistribution.

Read all of our resource management content here.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie