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UK waste industry reiterates call for circular economy

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World Cement,

In the UK, key figures met last week to discuss the development of a modern, resource-efficient economy in which waste is considered a resource. An abridged version of the follow-up press release is included below.

During the meeting in the House of Commons, Laura Sandys MP reinforced her provocation to shake up the waste industry, reiterating her suggestion that dramatic changes are needed to shift the mindset from ‘waste’ to ‘resource’, suggesting that much of government lacks the modern policies needed in a resource-constrained economy.

The meeting was co-organised by Sandys, the Green Alliance and Stephen Gee of Resource, with the intention of collating suggestions for how legislation could support and help foster circular business models.

The event also hosted the launch of The Green Alliance Task Force’s second report on the Circular Economy, ‘Wasted opportunities: Smarter systems for resource recovery’, with simple suggestions, including shifting the government’s £250 million weekly bin collection support package to a fund that would support circular economy infrastructure, such as AD plants and closed loop plastic processors. Dustin Benton of the Green Alliance highlighted the inefficiency and fragmentation of England’s waste collection system, citing the ‘false separation’ of commercial and domestic waste systems as a pivotal example of inefficiency.

One point of consensus was the need to find solutions for the problem of food waste. Such waste not only prevents effective recycling, but is also a missed opportunity. Benton presented some powerful new statistics about cross collaboration to achieve food waste reduction. According to The Circular Economy Taskforce’s latest report better handling of food waste could create £140m of biogas and a good system could deliver £1.7m in material and resource value each year.

Gev Eduljee, Director of External Affairs at SITA UK questioned whether economic drivers are large enough yet for businesses to ‘think circular’. He went on to suggest that a ruthless focus on ‘the bottom line’ for the average business creates a barrier to adopting new business models. Legislation and incentivisation through taxation would therefore be the most effective method for government to support a circular economy.

The group reached consensus that in terms of material flows, it could make sense to have two key areas of focus, and that these might be plastics and electronic items (WEEE). To be more circular will require more investment in infrastructure to process and recover materials.

Earlier this month, the European Cement Association (CEMBUREAU) joined the call for a circular economy, highlighting the work the cement and concrete industries are already undertaking in this regard. In Europe, alternative fuels account for 34% of the cement industry fuel mix and the industry is also making use of byproducts from other industries as alternative raw materials. About 1.1 million t of end-of-life tyres are used for fuel each year. In addition, concrete is 100% recyclable and the industry currently recycles 8 million tonnes of waste annually. 

Adapted from press release by

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