UK outlines plan to tackle looming materials crunch

Manufacturers will be expected to forge closer ties with waste companies and local authorities to improve end-of-life product recovery levels under the Government's Resource Action Plan.

The plan published jointly by BIS and Defra today (March 16) outlines a number of measures to address the rising problem of material scarcity for British manufacturers.

According to a member survey from EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, 80% of chief executives said that shortages in raw materials were now a risk to their business.

China produces over 95% of rare earth elements with Russia and the Democratic Republic of Congo leading production of other key materials that are used in hi-tech gadgets such as smartphones.

The plan aims to develop better coordination between businesses and industry and to provide companies with key information around the resource decision-making process.

The import and export of precious metals will be mapped across the UK to establish a national picture of material flows, enabling businesses to identify and capture them.

Ministers have also committed £200,000 in financial support to assist local firms in developing new reuse and recycling processes.

An industry-led consortium will be set up to identify key risks and growth opportunities to help ensure UK businesses are resilient to any changes in the supply and price of critical resources.

In announcing the plan, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: “Businesses are already feeling the heat from uncertainty in the supply of speciality metals used in mobile phones, medical equipment and aeroplanes.

“We’re working with business to help prepare for these risks – but there is also a multi-billion pound opportunity in the massive amount of valuable metals lost … I want to see businesses taking advantage of this through how we design products, while reusing, recycling or substituting valuable metals.”

The plan builds on WRAP and the Environment Agency’s European Pathways to Zero Waste report, which assessed potential global recovery opportunities of the EU’s 14 most critical metals and minerals at around $15bn.

It was developed in consultation with a number of stakeholders including the CBI, EEF, the Aldersgate Group, the Green Alliance, Rolls Royce, General Electric, Veolia and Sita.

Reaction to the plan will follow shortly.

Maxine Perella

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