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Make the circular economy a reality

MRW regularly reports on the circular economy and for good reason: as a country, the UK has precious few natural resources and the inherent danger of relying on imports of raw materials has been obvious since the oil crisis of the 1970s.

Strategically, we cannot afford, in every sense of the word, to be so reliant on imports. Therefore, we need to get more from those secondary materials we already possess – hence MRW’s interest.

The Circular Economy Task Force, a Government-supported group with business interests and looked after by the Green Alliance, produced its first report this week. The report was launched with a discussion at the offices of the employers’ group EEF where the resource minister Lord de Mauley praised it for being “right on the mark”.

The risks of not responding to the dangers are clear but the challenge of getting producers to sign up to a range of commitments is a tough one. They need to share more information, collaborate, commit to longer-terms contracts or joint ventures and put greater emphasis on product design.

The UK Government, loathe as it is to increase regulation, remains a key influencer in this process. Wrap, with an independence that allows it to be “an honest broker”, is in a good position to drive change as it has done with material actions plans.

Awareness of what can be done – and understanding the benefits - is also a huge call. The term ‘circular economy’ can sound rather esoteric, the product of academic papers rather than shop floor solutions.

Some contributors to the discussion at the EEF were concerned about getting practice out of the theory, getting businesses and particularly SMEs to appreciate the relevance of being more efficient about their resources. One observer suggested the circular economy could be seen as “sweating assets”. It’s a good start.

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