The development of a circular economy is at the heart of what LRS Consultancy is all about; working with and advising local authorities and businesses about sustainable supply chains and resource efficiency. We believe that companies should be responsible for the products they design, produce and sell and the impact the products have on the environment and society, for the whole of the product’s life; we call this product stewardship. In reality, this means understanding all aspects of supply chains, from sustainable sourcing through to how the product can be managed once the consumer has finished using it.
Through our network, we are seeing new entrants to the waste collection and reprocessing markets because of resource scarcity and security risks. These stakeholders now have a vested interest to ensure old products can be collected and sorted cost-effectively so the materials can be reused in remanufacture. We are also seeing an increase in companies using waste as a source of energy, as energy security, fuel poverty and decentralisation of supply become key Government priorities. This has meant we are working with new investors and private equity companies who see the opportunities that the market has to offer. Our experience shows that there is a role for organisations such as ours who can help organisations navigate the complexities of the market place and ensure they maximise the potential for growth and development while minimising the risks associated with poor decision-making and bad commercial choices.
One global producer that has understood the need to safeguard its future supply of quality sustainable materials is Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), who financed a joint venture (Continuum Recycling) with Eco Plastics to build a plastics recycling facility in Lincolnshire; developing infrastructure that will help to ensure CCE meets its target of including 25% rPET in all its plastics packaging, by 2012.
This shift in access to resources will start to drive change in our traditional waste market. There are opportunities for local authorities and waste management companies to be forward thinkers and present themselves as invaluable partners, becoming materials suppliers to businesses, as part of the development of the circular economy. I am already talking to local authorities and waste management companies about the need to prepare for changes in waste composition and the potential that the waste they currently manage could become the ‘lower value’ materials as other stakeholders realise the potential to keep or take ownership of the more valuable materials for use as materials in sustainable supply chains. Those ahead of the curve, such as the local authority waste partnerships, are already thinking commercially by developing new collection systems and by working in partnership with each other. They are creating opportunities to generate new revenue streams, as well as recording carbon savings associated with new collaborative contracts for a wide range of materials.
Waste management operations will need to restructure in order to remain part of the resource supply chain. Their remit is not just about reducing waste going to landfill anymore. Some companies have already responded by changing their operating models and investing in new technology that sorts more types of materials and reduces levels of contamination, enabling them to obtain and preserve better quality materials and gain higher sales prices for them.
Better methods of waste management are integral to a circular economy. The last decade, in the UK, has seen a rise in recycling rates, a reduction in waste being sent to landfill and a reduction in household waste overall. However, now is the time for the industry to step up, understand this new circular economy and the social and environmental factors that are impacting on it. I always want to hear about better technologies that can extract and treat waste better and connect these companies with partners that require it.
As materials become commodities the importance of quality in sorting and reprocessing becomes more important and so the drive for quality protocols and commitments becomes greater. A good example is the MRF installed by UPM to secure material supply at the right quality to meet their reprocessing standards. Furthermore, the shift from waste to resource prompts the development of new technologies to extract more and new materials from our municipal and commercial streams. This stimulates another type of entrant into the market, such as Enval, who’s technology can be implemented into existing infrastructure. Enval concentrates on tackling the problems presented by materials that are currently unrecyclable or not recycled, with the aim of diverting them from landfill or incineration. One of their main areas of expertise is the recycling of laminated packaging waste. Their technology extracts commercially usable aluminium, oil and gas from laminated packaging waste, such as liquid food and drink cartons, like Tetra Paks, food pouches, and toothpaste tubes, allowing the waste to be completely recycled in an economically viable way.
The year ahead will bring an impetus to change the consumerism and materialistic culture and support a circular economy.
Dee Moloney, managing director of LRS Consultancy