London support scheme launched to help SMEs scale up circular business models

As research reveals that almost 90% of London boroughs have fallen below the national average for household recycling, a new business support programme has been launched to enable SMEs in the capital to adopt and scale up circular business models.

The Advance London initiative was unveiled earlier this week by the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB), a partnership between the Mayor of London and London’s Boroughs dedicated to improving waste and resource management within the capital.

The scheme will provide free practical help and advice to assist SMEs in identify circular economy opportunities. A team of highly skilled business advisors will deliver a series of events, workshops and one-to-one business support, and will also support existing circular enterprises to overcome any barriers to growth and improve their competitiveness.

LWARB’s chief operating officer Wayne Hubbard said: “London is host to several circular economy leaders. The nature of the circular economy requires collaboration throughout the supply chain and changes the way businesses interact with consumers. As more and more businesses ‘go circular’ new opportunities will emerge for SMEs to bring innovative solutions to overcome the challenges that businesses face in this transition. We want London to be a world leader in nurturing circular economy businesses.”

The three-year-programme will start in January 2017, and is one of a series of LWARB-led investment programmes for SMEs with circular economy ambitions to be launched in London next year.

Capital falling behind

While businesses attempt to drive the circular economy in London, the efforts of local borough councils in making the capital more environmentally friendly have not been so positive. Research released this week, which analysed recycling rates for domestic waste, has discovered that only four London boroughs out of the 32 are above the national domestic recycling average of 44.9%.

The study, conducted by London-based environmental waste clearance company EnviroWaste, found that none of the boroughs came within 10% of the top performing area in the UK for recycling, which was South Oxfordshire with a rate of 67.3%. Bexley Borough Council came closest at 54%, while the worst performer was Lewisham Borough Council, which scored a domestic recycling rate of just 17.10%.

EnviroWaste’s owner James Rubin said: “It’s very surprising to discover that the majority of London is falling below the UK national average, especially with wealthy boroughs like Westminster where the household recycling rate is just 19.10%. The European recycling target rate is 50% by 2020 for the UK, we’re certainly on the right path as a country but it’s evident that there are certain areas in the capital that could be doing much more.

“In our experience areas with a high population density produce larger volumes of overall waste, making it so much harder to police and manage. We have also found areas where there are more renters and less home owners tend to be less involved in recycling their waste. As a business we’re determined to make London a more environmentally friendly city and will be focusing our efforts on the underperforming boroughs to help get residents recycling more.”

What a waste

The capital’s poor recycling performance is reflected on the national level. While recent reports have shown that Wales and Scotland continue to succeed in improving waste strategy, England’s recycling rates have slowed significantly over the past three years. 

Indeed, England recently fell to the bottom of an index that ranks home nations on carbon reductions from recycling, following largely unchanged progress over the previous 12 months. Charity Keep Britain Tidy (KBT) recently claimed that England should “hang its head in shame” over its lack of progress on recycling, having failed to increase a 44% recycling rate over the last two years, remaining below the UK’s 50% target.

The waste and resource management industry has previously called for a long-term, coherent regulatory framework to increase recycling and re-use rates in England after a Freedom of Information (FoI) request revealed that the quantity of rejected recyclable waste had increased by 84% over the past four years.

George Ogleby

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