A More Resource-Efficient Europe

27th February 2015

Written by:

David Adams, Managing Director of 707, comments on the circular economy package ahead of the Resource 2015 event.

Policymakers and stakeholders will come together at the Resource event in London next week (3 – 5 March 2015) to discuss the economic and environmental benefits that can be reaped from making better use of our finite resources.

The current model of ‘take-make-consume and dispose’ is neither sustainable nor resource-efficient and the conference will consider how best to deliver economic growth and promote better resource management.

The conference comes at an important juncture with the announcement that proposals outlined in the existing circular eeconomy package will be withdrawn in place of ‘more ambitious’ plans. Frans Timmermans, European Commission Vice President, highlighted a need to invest time and energy in legislative proposals which will have the biggest and most effective impact on jobs and growth and encompass the whole of the Circular Economy as opposed to just waste legislation.

While this has prompted much debate around the topic of efficient resource management, understandably there is uncertainty across the industry about delaying progress and what this means for the existing waste proposals, including an 80% recycling target for packaging by 2030 and a ban on disposing of recyclable materials in landfill by 2025.

A circular economy revolves around re-using, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials to ensure that when a product has reached its end of life, it can be repeatedly re-used, preventing waste to landfill. Achieving a circular economy will require significant change across all stages of the product life cycle, from the way we manufacture and design products to waste collection and disposal. Encouraging consumers and business leaders to perceive waste as a resource, to be recycled, reused or converted to energy, will be crucial.

Even with some of the more specialist industries that we serve, including the clinical and care home sectors, there is scope for a circular inspired approach to waste management. On a small scale, altering the ‘one-use’ waste management culture within offices will help save money and our environment.

The business case for making better use of resources is strong – it is estimated that resource efficiency improvements could represent an overall savings potential of €630 billion per year for the European industry and that the circular economy activities have the potential to create more than 500,000 jobs. That said, there are a number of barriers to achieving a circular economy.

Moving from a linier to a circular model would require significant financial investment in technology and infrastructure, which may deter many businesses, particularly small to medium sized businesses who perceive the investment as too greater risk. Informing and educating business leaders in the economic benefits of improving resource efficiency and inspiring confidence in the circular economy proposals will be a key driver for change.

We cannot go on exhausting our scarce natural resources and a sustainable and workable solution must be established. On a smaller scale, whether you work in hospitality and catering or a more typical office environment, little changes and adopting some of the circular economy philosophies will go a long way towards preserving the planet’s future. The WWF predicts that if everyone in the world consumed natural resources and generated carbon dioxide at the rate we do in the UK, we’d need three planets to support us.

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