Larger waste companies are drawing ahead of their smaller counterparts in their awareness of the circular economy, a conference has been told.
Sarah Jane Widdowson, principal consultant for resource efficiency and waste management at Ricardo-AEA, was speaking at the Resource conference at London’s Excel venue.
She told a session on the new role of waste management companies: “Larger companies are aware of the circular economy but I wonder about the smaller companies, the SMEs.
“Do they understand the circular economy, is it on their radar and do they understand its value? We have to work with them to highlight opportunities.”
Gev Eduljee (left), external affairs director of Sita UK, told the same session that the circular economy meant his company’s role had changed from simply ensuring the safe disposal of customers’ waste to one of collaboration to reduce their environmental footprint.
“It means were need a more sophisticated understanding of the client’s business,” he said. “We were not usually part of the customers supply chain, now we must be.”
He added that the move towards finding uses for material previously disposed of was being “led by large clients who used to just want us to dispose of waste in line with legal requirements but now say ‘we do not want our waste landfilled, thank you’.”
An earlier panel discussion on moving to the ‘closed loop’ heard from Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust, that businesses understood how increased raw materials prices meant they might have to rethink products and services but feared that investing in re-use might be too costly.
Some might fail to show interest because the investment and work involved stretched well beyond a chief executive’s expected tenure in office.
He added: “Most of our carbon assessments we do are in the Far East where they want to export to the west and are very aware that western consumers are increasingly interested in [environmental impact]. They take it very seriously, perhaps more so than in North America or Europe.”