Waste-manufacturing alliances crucial to delivering a circular economy

The waste sector has a pivotal role to play in creating a circular economy by helping manufacturers "design for recovery", according to a report from the Environmental Services Association (ESA).

The study offers 10 recommendations for policymakers and other stakeholders and draws on input from partner organisations across the entire supply chain, including the manufacturers’ organisation the EEF, B&Q, iESE, the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, and Coca-Cola Enterprises.

At a national level, it calls on the Government to set a BIS ministerial post to lead on resource efficiency, linking the current emphasis on industrial policy with the material resources agenda. It would also like to see the Government increase its specifications for recycled products/content in its buying standards.

Local authorities are urged to make separate food waste collections more widespread for households and businesses.

The report also calls for the development of standard clauses in local authority collection contracts to enable better allocation of recyclate price risk between partners. MRF sampling proposals should also be strengthened in line with the ESA proposals to Defra.

At the EU level, the report calls on the European Commission to use its powers within the Eco Design Directive to set recyclability requirements for selected products and urges it to consider adding products with high recycled content to a list of VAT reduced goods.

Waste management companies meanwhile are urged to contribute experts to the “design for recyclability” spaces proposed by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce (RSA).

Speaking at the launch event, ESA chairman David Palmer Jones said that 80% of the environmental impact of a product was determined at the design stage.

“If we work together to change the way products are designed, we can avoid the current trend of a third of potentially recyclable material being lost to the economy,” he said. “This is vital for resource efficiency and security, and to reduce environmental impacts.”

By consciously designing to maximise end-life recovery of components and materials commodities so that products and packaging can be easily reused, dismantled and recycled, Going for growth reports that the UK economy could achieve a £1.4bn boost.

Designed to provide a platform for discussion about the role of the waste and resources management sector in delivering the circular economy, this week’s seminar explored the barriers that are preventing greater circularity and offered some potential solutions across the supply chain.

Asked how a circular economy could become a reality, WRAP’s chief executive Liz Goodwin cited innovation, stable government policy and business investment.

She warned that unless the circular economy concept was taken forward, the UK would be “weaker, less resilient, less competitive and would see slower growth.”

Offering a manufacturer’s perspective, Kingfisher’s acting head of innovation for net positive James Walker said it was about the business value.

“How do we create something that has better interaction with consumers, can control costs and drive new revenue streams?” he questioned.

He added that it was important for businesses to tackle the hardest products that are not easily recyclable because it would make the manufacturer less susceptible to price rises.

Our Resource Revolution campaign reflects the latest thinking among businesses and the waste supply chain in the transition to a circular economy. You can catch up here on the Revolution so far.

Nick Warburton

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