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Report on circular economy spells out resource risks for UK

The UK risks falling behind competitor countries if more is not done to secure the material resources needed for manufacturing through reuse and recycling, experts have warned.

The Circular Economy Task Force, backed by the government and supported by leading businesses including Boots, Unilever, Veolia and Viridor, published its first report this week.

The group, convened by the Green Alliance thinktank, called for:

  • a government-led study into the UK’s exposure to material insecurity
  • clarifyication of competition law to reinforce exemptions businesses which co-operate on the drive to a circular economy
  • long-term contracts and joint ventures to speed up recovery of materials and products
  • influencing of product design through existing legislation to make products easier to reuse, remanufacture and recycle.

The report says the government’s industrial strategy should be a catalyst to quantify resource security risks, and co-operation across supply chains should be encouraged.

Green Alliance senior policy adviser Dustin Benton said: “Our analysis shows that companies in the UK want and need to avoid resource security risks. There’s a lot that businesses can do on their own, but the government needs to help.”

Resource minister Lord de Mauley said the scope of the report was “right on the mark”. He added: “I am delighted with it. We will have to think carefully about the recommendations.”

As well as having commercial supporters, the task force also involved representatives of the Business department, Defra, the CBI, two banks and the employers’ group EEF.

At the report launch, members spoke about the challenges of collaboration and innovation in a commercial market; price volatility; designing for reuse; and getting across the message of a circular economy.

Peter Maddox, head of strategy and planning at WRAP, said there was an opportunity “to get the UK on the front foot” with Wrap helping to promote more collaboration as an “honest broker”.

Chair Julie Hill said that in the next 12 months the group “would be putting further flesh on the bones of this analysis”.

“It will be considering the right scale for circular solutions and where they offer greatest resilience; and how high-value manufacturing can benefit from circular approaches, including how to ensure effective end-of-life solutions for novel materials such as composites,” she said.

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