Resource economy ‘still in its infancy’ – SITA chief

The waste industry must manage the transformation towards a circular economy in a mutually beneficial way to overcome the challenges presented by supply and demand of secondary raw materials.

SITA’s chief executive David Palmer-Jones told delegates at the Resource Association’s annual conference this week (July 9) that the resource economy was still in its infancy and the entire supply chain would need to work together to find a sustainable future.

“We have a mismatch between the demand and supply of secondary raw materials; there is a complete imbalance in what we need,” he said.

“As we move to this new world, we are going to have a lot of issues around this. How do we get sustainable markets for that material?”

Palmer-Jones explained that each part of the industry had to accept responsibility for better quality, secondary raw, materials.

Waste providers and collectors, he said, needed to work with their customers to drive up quality.

Local authorities could play their part through the way that they tendered and by working with households to improve the quality of recyclate collected. Re-processors, he added, needed to recognise that quality costs and that this had to be borne equally.

“We need to be able to gather the materials in a format and a quality that the reprocessors and the manufacturers need,” he said.

“We’ve then got to allow the economics of that to work in terms of the cost to customers but also on the return on capital to take that value out of the waste stream.”

Palmer-Jones also called on the waste industry to become the “stewards of material”, working with manufacturesr and reprocessors to improve product design.

He said that the Government needed to start thinking more long-term about resources and incentivise the industry and called for lobbying about reassuring the manufacturing of materials.

“If we don’t, I can see difficulties ahead in terms of having a sustainable market, a viable market and a balance between energy and resources being the perfect equilibrium.”

Nick Warburton

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