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The circular economy – being commercially keen as well as green

In response to a recent article in MRW magazine, UNTHA UK’s managing director Chris Oldfield considers the benefits that a circular economy could bring to ‘UK plc’.

“The industry has spoken about the merit of a circular economy for many years now. Some waste management professionals have praised its importance from the outset, whilst others have expressed concern that it is little more than a buzz-phrase which lacks substance. Regardless of the individual viewpoint however, no-one could dispute the fact that the circular economy is being increasingly talked about, in our industry and beyond.

Yet we must not forget the age-old saying, ‘actions speak louder than words’. A growing number of people may like the idea of a circular economy, but how many will change their behaviours purely for environmental gain.

Pinsent Masons’ Associate Fiona Ross hit the nail on the head in a recent MRW article – if we are to become better engaged as a recycling society, we need to think more in terms of the circular economy, raw materials and the bottom line for UK plc.

If we give greater thought to the economic benefit that closed loop business models can achieve, perhaps this will encourage more people to sit up, pay attention, and, most importantly, commit.

I agree that July presented a key turning point in this potential mind-set shift, when the European Commission’s adopted the circular economy concept detailed in Towards a Circular Economy: A Zero Waste Programme for Europe. Their review of waste policy resulted in proposals including a 2025 landfill ban for recyclable materials including plastic, paper, metals, glass and biowaste, and an increase in the recycling and preparing for reuse of packaging waste to 80%, by 2030.

In announcing these proposals, the EC was said to highlight the contribution such behaviour could make to the economy. After all, raw materials are becoming increasingly scarce, and costly. Greater resource security gives us some fiscal comfort, plus it places us in a more competitive position to design, engineer, innovate, manufacture and remanufacture. It gives us a stronger platform on which to successfully trade internationally.

More widespread communication of such messages is now required. Becoming sustainable and better protecting the environment is incredibly important, and that objective should remain at the core of our corporate social responsibilities. But the underlying principle of the circular economy, and indeed greater respect for modern waste management practices on the whole, can make good business sense too.”

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