Report: UK could create 450,000 jobs through circular economy transition

Remanufacturing alone could create 300

That is the headline conclusion of a new report from thinktank Green Alliance. The report is published today (4 August) and is entitled ‘levelling up through circular economy jobs’.

According to the report, the remanufacturing sector could and should be supported to grow rapidly in the coming years, in light of the UK Government’s commitments to the economic recovery from Covid-19, to net-zero by 2050 and to ‘levelling up’ – doing more to address economic and social inequality within and between regions.

Some 300,000 jobs could be created in remanufacturing by 2035, by Green Alliance’s calculations. Remanufacturing involves returning a product to its original state or better and supplying the customer with a warranty. This model is growing in popularity for electronics and electrical appliances.

When repair, reuse and recycling are factored in, up to 150,000 additional jobs could be created by 2035, the report states.

One-third of the total amount of roles would be in lower-skilled occupations, catering to workers who are currently more likely than the national average to face unemployment. Moreover, the report emphasises how all regions could benefit, with those facing the highest rates of unemployment – and those set to be most affected by the net-zero transition – likely to see more job creation.

Green Alliance has flagged Wales as a potential hub for the UK’s growing recycling sector; Yorkshire and the Humber and the West Midlands as the centres of remanufacturing and the South West as a region primed for rental and leasing jobs. The projections are based on the current number of jobs in circular economy activities on a regional basis, inflated in line with different scenarios, under which different levels of policy support and investment are provided.

The report showcases the many businesses and collectives in these regions and business models are innovating and scaling up, but cautions that much more support will be needed for the ‘best-case-scenario’ predictions in the report to be realised; it states that, under current plans, only 40,000 new jobs will be created by 2035 and that they will be largely within London and the South East.

Delivering Green Alliance’s ‘best-case scenario’ would require a string of policy changes. The organisation is advocating for a legally binding target for the UK to halve resource use by 2050; clarity on reskilling support and the introduction of VAT breaks for repairs and refurbishment. This latter recommendation has previously been put forward by the Aldersgate Group and the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC).

“Just a few new policies focused on improving the use of valuable resources, led by the Treasury, would help to drive economic growth and the Government’s own levelling up agenda while supporting environmental aspirations,” the report states.

Also recommended by Green Alliance are the creation of a £400m circular economy starter fund for small businesses; an addition of a circular economy clause to the remit of the UK’s new National Infrastructure Bank (NIB) and more funding to help universities and colleges run and market new strategic courses preparing students for circular economy jobs.

The report comes after a separate analysis from the Aldersgate Group, published last month, outlined how embedding circular economy principles in major policy frameworks could put the UK on course to deliver 80% of the additional emissions cuts needed to meet its Fifth Carbon Budget, which covers 2028-2032.

Sarah George

Comments (1)

  1. Rod Fountain says:

    I fully support everything the Green Alliance is proposing. At Unwasted we have a pilot plant in Deeside, north Wales, to upcycle vast quantities of waste cardboard and packaging into high quality construction panels, but have failed to attract a single penny of financial help from any Welsh or UK government fund or initiative despite our best efforts. By contrast we have been overwhelmed with interest from Scandinavia, France, and the Netherlands and have just completed a multi-million pound funding round with Danish investors that will have us build our first full-scale manufacturing plant in Denmark instead of Wales. The UK remains in the dark ages when it comes to meaningful support for circular economy innovations.

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