New route map guides London towards £2.8bn circular economy

A new route map was launched on Monday (19 June) outlining how the collective buying power of the private sector could catalyse the circular economy in London, unlocking £2.8bn annually in the process.

The London Waste and Recycling Board’s (LWARB) circular economy programme is targeting a £50m investment by 2020 to make London a city where businesses utilising closed-loop systems can “flourish”. The new route map outlines more than 100 practical actions that can kickstart this transition.

“The size of the circular economy prize for London is huge,” LWARB’s chair Liz Goodwin said. “Cities are the engine room of the circular economy. London could receive a net benefit of up to £7bn a year by 2036 if we accelerate our transition, £2.8bn of which can be achieved by delivering the actions in this document. This route map is a major milestone and I would encourage all organisations in London to think about how they can benefit from a transition to a circular economy.”

LWARB wants London to be the global leader of the circular economy, claiming that it would make a substantial contribution to Mayor Sadiq Khan’s plan to create a zero-carbon city by 2050. One of the key considerations of this target is London’s growing population, which is predicted to surpass 11 million by 2050. LWARB believes that the closed-loop systems in the built environment, food, textiles, electricals and plastics will alleviate resource pressures as the population grows.

In fact, the route map outlines that 12,000 new jobs could be generated across areas of re-use, remanufacturing and materials innovation. A further £4.2bn could be delivered by other cities embracing the initiative.

Route to success

The route map outlines several cross-sector factors that must be championed in order to embed the circular economy in the capital. Regarding communication, LWARB suggests that case studies of existing projects should be provided to inform others. Circular economy “ambassadors” should also be utilised in organisations.

LWARB is also calling for the creation of a circular economy hub in London to facilitate collaboration. Bother LWARB and the Greater London Authority (GLA) are members of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s CE 100 – a global platform to accelerate understanding and implementation of the circular economy. LWARB has called on London-based organisations to join the initiative.

The route map notes that local authorities have a “key role” to play. Nine London boroughs have already partnered with LWARB on a behaviour change campaign to raise awareness on the value of food and the issues surrounding food waste.

In light of the UK’s ongoing withdrawal process from the European Union (EU), the route map also suggests that the circular economy should be embedded into UK policy through the Industrial Strategy.

The Strategy’s focus on innovation could cross over into LWARB’s aims. The route map calls on London’s higher education community to research, test and innovate on new solutions. This should be coupled with public sector organisations procuring goods and services that are tailored to new business models, and the private sector’s ability to “disseminate circular ideas and support through encouraging disruptive innovation within their supply chains”.

LWARB has already launched Advance London, which aims to help SMEs scale-up closed-loop systems and services. However, LWARB believes that a lack of funding for SMEs may hinder progress.

The route map was launched alongside an announcement from the Green Construction Board – a workstream from the Construction Leadership Council that focuses on sustainability. A new Top Tips guide was launched to help the construction industry embed circular economy practices into operations and strategic approaches.

Matt Mace

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