For economic success, a nation must make things. It’s an obvious point and one that is being made with increasing fervour.
That is why I am supporting the Department for Business, Innovation & Skill’s Make it in Great Britain campaign. For too long, we’ve allowed manufacturing jobs to be exported in the blind assumption that the financial services sector would fill the gap. Whilst financial services contribute greatly to our economy and continue to offer employment to a considerable percentage of the population, the case for a more balanced economy that can also rely on manufacturing for growth and employment is clear.
But for me, the argument does not end there. We don’t just need manufacturing jobs, we need green manufacturing jobs. The country faces a number of environmental targets, both mandatory and voluntary, and these will only intensify over time. Manufacturing has a huge role to play in the provision of innovative products that will help us hit these targets. It would be madness to allow the jobs associated with these products to be exported. Indeed, I truly believe that green growth can drive an economic recovery. Whether termed ‘low carbon’, ‘clean technology’ or ‘sustainable’, for those of us working in it, the green economy isn’t a pipe dream.
This month, I was delighted to be named as a Make it in Great Britain industry champion. There are thirty of us in total, representing a variety of sectors within manufacturing and hoping to work with Government to help transform the image of UK manufacturing. We want to encourage young people to consider a career in the industry. We want to dispel some of the myths that exist with regards the UK’s manufacturing capabilities and portray a more positive outlook for growth. At times, reports are so negative that the general public could be forgiven for thinking we have no manufacturing industry left at all! Clearly this is not the case.
It is important for the recycling industry to be represented in such campaigns. It is testament to how far our industry has come in recent years that we have been invited to participate – I doubt this would have been the case even ten years ago. We work in an area of manufacturing less likely to attract the headlines enjoyed by, for example, the automotive and aerospace manufacturers. But I would argue that in terms of sheer growth potential, our area of manufacturing can compete with the best of them. Rising commodity prices and burgeoning landfills have forced our hand as a nation. We must re-think our approach to waste and we must develop domestic solutions to a domestic problem. And in many ways, our late arrival to this particular party puts us at a distinct advantage.
Re-make it in Great Britain
We don’t just make quality, innovative products in Britain, we re-make them once they reach the end of their life. At ECO Plastics, we process plastic bottles that are extracted from the waste system, employing high-end technology and processes to help turn them back into new plastic bottles that sit on supermarket shelves across the country. The UK needs several more facilities of this kind and that growth will create many long-term jobs.
But it’s not just about plastic bottles. ECO Plastics was recently awarded a significant loan from WRAP that will help make our Hemswell facility better equipped to process rigid plastic packaging such as tubs, pots and trays. This is a longer-term growth story - and we need to be careful that demand is stimulated before further supply is encouraged - but it is a growth story nonetheless.
And there are many other British companies like ours, recycling anything from aluminium cans to computers. Together, we are growing a modern recycling infrastructure that is right up there with the most advanced in the world. I will be pushing this point throughout the campaign to ensure that British recycling has a voice.
The Make it in Great Britain campaign will culminate in a six week exhibition of Great British manufacturing at the Science Museum this summer during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. You can see more at www.bis.gov.uk/makeitingreatbritain.