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Brexit and the Circular Economy
Having attended the RWM / Energy event last week, I was interested to update on latest developments with the Circular Economy, Energy from Waste and Recycling / Reprocessing / Waste sectors. What became apparent is that whilst the UK is pushing to develop a circular economy there are huge opportunities in what is now becoming the Global Circular Economy. This got me thinking. Will Brexit (whatever Brexit means) have any impact on the objective of achieving a world where we reduce resources and extend the lifecycle of what we use and recycle as much as we can if we leave the EU?
For those unfamiliar with the terminology the circular economy is a modernised version of the old ‘reduce, re-use, recycle’ mantra with the objective of stripping out waste, streamlining supply chains and converting what we can into energy. The market opportunity is huge and with the changes afoot the Global Circular Economy could be a $1 Trillion opportunity. In the UK alone this could equate to £3-6 Billion and the creation of 50,000 jobs.
All the respective sectors and businesses within those should all be contributing. Ultimately we need to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill and I believe any businesses producing waste of any description has a duty to fulfil. This then extends to the domestic world and peoples behaviours in their homes, buying habits in terms of purchasing what you need not what you think you need and everyone contributing to a less wasteful existence. These behaviours are interchangeable as habits become the norm if practised often enough and what might be a move to reducing the weekly shopping bill at home can actually extend into achieving resource efficiency in business.
Education, Legislation and communication are key and it takes the leaders of business, Government (central and local) to push this down from above. After all there are money making opportunities from the renewable sources of energy that can be created, the cost savings in reducing materials spend and reducing waste; so why wouldn’t you?
It is more important than ever that we work together what with an ever increasing population, rising commodity and material prices and working through global supply chains to reduce firstly what’s purchased and then secondly what we send on a journey. Making that process as efficient as possible is imperative in order to attain the goal.
What can be done when so much change is needed? A start would be to ensure the best and right talent is being utilised to full effect. Engaging experts in the field that can drive forward the agenda within companies seems to me to be a hugely important part of the achieving the goal. Individuals without the distraction of day to day BAU that can push the difficult tasks and drive a cultural change within the business. Additionally those responsible for the corporate social responsibility agendas in businesses have a great opportunity to drive a zero- waste and re-use culture which in turn will result in improved efficiencies and more profitable operations.
There are of course many businesses now involved in the resource efficiency market from those involved in building and operating Energy from Waste plants, Recycling, Renewables and so on that are all running businesses and making profit from this. Waste has become a valuable resource and although we should all try to minimise it, it’s hugely important that it’s dealt with in the right way and in the right place.
The Waste sector has been driven by EU legislation for quite some time and it’s vital that the UK does not lose ground. We need more progress. Europe’s economy has created vast wealth in part attributable to the trend of improving and re-using resources. Sub industries have grown and flourished and can go further across Europe and indeed globally. It was in fact the UK that was an early adopter and leader in the EU of addressing environmental issues with the introduction of the Control of Pollutions Act 1974. Whether or not Brexit will have any impact on this remains to be seen but it seems to me that as part of the mammoth task that lies ahead in terms of managing an exit (possible) from Europe, we need new legislation in place to reach our goal of attaining Zero waste businesses and ultimately cities to co-exist with the ensuing trade agreements that are going to follow.
For further discussions please contact Steven Wynne at email@example.com or telephone 01423 704155