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Caroline Spelman urges greater Whitehall support for remanufacturing

Former environment secretary Caroline Spelman has called for more Government support for the remanufacturing industry, saying there is a strong case for a legal definition for the sector and for its products to be exempt from classification as waste.

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The Conservative MP said this would boost business and help moves towards a circular economy.  

“If the sector is to move forward, Government must take a more active role,” she said.

Remanufacturing is not the same as simply reusing or recycling materials. It is the industrial process of taking used products and restoring them to “like-new” with a performance warranty. The industrial vehicle producer Caterpillar is considered a world leader in remanufacturing technologies.    

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Writing exclusively for MRW, Spelman, left, says Whitehall should remove barriers restricting growth. She believes a clear legal definition of remanufacturing would improve confidence amongst producers and consumers and allow products to obtain legal protection through certification schemes. 

This would also assist other industries, including textiles and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) recycling, in clarifying whether the upcycling or repurposing of pre-consumer textiles can be classified as part of the remanufacturing industry. This would reduce confusion about its potential, Spelman said.

There is also concern that remanufactured products are included in the official ‘Current Guidance on Legal Definition of Waste’. This legislation deems remanufactured products as waste and is said to be discouraging companies from taking part in the industry.  

UK remanufacturing is currently valued at £2.4bn but could increase to £5.6bn given the right settings, Spelman said. The industry was 20 years behind the US remanufacturing sector, which is estimated to be worth $43bn (£26bn) and employs 180,000 workers, she added.

Spelman stated: “The economic and environmental values of remanufacturing need to be recognised and the UK cannot be afraid to innovate and develop the sector. Only by recognising the potential of remanufacturing in the UK and tackling the many barriers which continue to prevail, can the UK move towards a more circular economy.”   

Spelman is currently co-chairing a Parliamentary inquiry with Labour MP Barry Sheerman that is investigating the opportunities for growth in remanufacturing.  

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