Three key sectors of the economy produce around 13 million tonnes a year of waste which, if properly reused, recycled or remanufactured, could generate £4bn of value, according to a report from Veolia.
The report, Imagine 2050, considers how new business models in the manufacturing, pharmaceutical and chemical, and food and beverage sectors can meet resource and waste challenges during the next three decades.
These include population growth, the pressure to reduce carbon emissions and how technological advances can shape resource use.
Estelle Brachlianoff, senior executive vice-president, Veolia UK and Ireland, says the estimated £4bn “hidden” value of lost resources in these industrial sectors cannot be ignored.
“Realising this value has a double windfall: it helps businesses to manage their resources more efficiently and generates new revenue streams.
“Adopting the innovative business models outlined in Imagine 2050 needs to happen now.
”Long-term planning, minimising waste and more effectively using water, energy and raw materials will help us to meet the changing needs of a growing population in a sustainable way.
”This is at the heart of the circular economy and in Veolia’s DNA.”
The report considers each sector in turn:
- Manufacturing – £2.8bn of hidden value in unutilised waste streams by generating, using and recovering energy and water resources and being closer to raw materials to secure supply chains. By 2050, waste materials will be turned into tradeable commodities, potentially enabling 100% recovery rates. Nanotechnology and 3D printing will be embedded into supply chains, enabling more flexibility with production and more efficient use of resources.
- Pharmaceutical and chemical – £800m of hidden value in unutilised resources. Designing efficiency into products at the concept stage, while new financial models will enable medicines to be produced more efficiently. 3D printing technology could enable the production of drugs on a mass scale at a local level.
- Food and beverage – £460m of unutilised resources. Cost pressures will bring about major changes, with companies needing to reimagine the by-products currently thrown away. New technology will enable better use of energy for the sector and help to minimise costs. Cultured meats and insects will play a greater role in our diets.