Speaking at the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) and the Environmental Services Association (ESA) annual conference, Gardiner said the Coalition had showed inaction on the circular economy and more Government intervention was needed for the UK to work towards a resource-efficient agenda.

He said: “Now would be the worst possible time for the Government to disengage from the circular economy. But that is precisely what this Government has done.”

He explained that a cross-Government strategy had to be driven by the Prime Minister for the UK to progress towards a circular economy.

Gardiner added that WRAP, which has been affected by Government cuts, cannot deliver “the significant progress we need towards a circular economy” by itself.

He quoted Green Alliance’s report on the circular economy and said that no single intervention on its own will create the tipping point for a circular economy. He said: “It is a systems problem that needs a systems solution.”

Elsewhere, Gardiner went on to outline the role of the waste and resource management sector in delivering growth and jobs, not just as a discrete industry sector but also as one capable of acting as a “turbo-charge” to support and drive growth across the wider economy.

To leverage this potential, Government has to play a strategic, co-ordinating role and provide the framework to allow business to make its contribution, he said.

Setting out a number of actions that a Labour Government would put in place to deliver progress, Gardiner led with a commitment to a ‘Stern-style’ review of resource security, including an assessment of the cost of doing nothing.

With investment in domestic recycling and reprocessing capacity also a key priority, he said Labour would seek to ensure that the Green Investment Bank would have borrowing powers from April 2015, rather than the current 2018 deadline, and would also be tasked with carrying out an investigation into the barriers to investment.

ESA policy advisor Roy Hathaway said: “ESA Members will welcome Mr Gardiner’s recognition that government leadership is vital to making progress towards a more circular economy and it is heartening to hear that he has already identified a number of specific actions that would help to create the conditions needed for the industry to invest in the future.”

Speaking at the same conference, Resource Minister Dan Rogerson said the UK businesses could save approximately £23 billion a year by becoming more resource efficient through improving the use of waste, energy and water. He said keeping materials in circulation was a key component in this and favoured working towards a circular economy.

However, he also warned that a “fully circular economy” could be unachievable and that businesses needed to focus on areas where the most environmental, economic and social benefit could be found.

He added: “The role of Government is to facilitate the transition towards the circular economy and make sure the right framework is in place. The role of Government is also to make sure that businesses have the tools and the freedom to realise the benefits.”

Liz Gyekye

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