Some 10,000 recycling jobs could be created by 2020, WRAP chief executive Liz Goodwin, has said.
This growth was attainable “if we were to embrace the potential offered by a circular economy approach to the way in which we design, manufacture and consume”, she told a conference on resource scarcity and the circular economy.
But she admitted that many businesses remained suspicious of both the costs of change and the claimed benefits.
Goodwin said it would be impossible for the world to continue to consume energy, food and resources at its current rate and “we have to be radical”.
New business models
She said: “We have to be willing to develop and adopt new business models which enable us to keep resources in use for as long as possible, extracting the maximum value from them while in use and recovering and regenerating the component products and materials at the end of life.”
Goodwin said changing ingrained business models was difficult and “sometimes requires a leap of faith and belief that the business will benefit.
“I think it’s fair to say that many businesses are yet to be convinced that their own organisations could benefit from a circular economy – and as a result, there’s a lack of a shared vision and commitment.”
Businesses had concerns about the costs involved, but Goodwin said WRAP demonstration projects in these fields had shown that savings were available.
There was ample scope for increased reuse and recycling, she said, as only 117 million tonnes of materials were recycled out of the 540 million tonnes that entered the UK economy in 2010, Goodwin said.
WRAP estimated that by 2020 the economy could use 30 million tonnes less of materials, recycle an extra 20 million tonnes and produce 50 million tonnes less waste.
The greatest opportunities lay in buildings and infrastructure, food and drink, and in products such as electricals and textiles.
“These are areas which use considerable amounts of resources, and where we think targeted intervention can make the circular ‘loop’ work much better,” she said.