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Drive to circular economy through higher productivity

A senior resource official at Defra has said that the drive for a circular economy (CE) in the UK should match ministers’ commitment to achieve greater growth through higher productivity.

Colin Church told the biennial conference of the European Federation of Waste Management and Environmental Services (Fead) in London that productivity was “something we are going to be focusing on throughout the next five years”.

He said that focus would underpin the Government’s approach to the CE package being consulted on by the European Commission.

Several reports, including one from the Green Alliance and WRAP in January, showed that the CE could boost jobs and bring greater productivity which has been flatlining since 2008.

The waste sector’s productivity was generally above the UK average, he said, and it had outperformed the general economy for two decades.

The sector was worth £6.3bn in gross value added (GVA) and accounted for 100,000 jobs. The current CE economy was harder to define, but he said it included car leasing, as an example, and was £41bn GVA with 600,000 jobs.

“We have to think about the whole economy. CE cannot remain a subset of economic thinking if it is going to have the transformational impact we are talking about,” he said.

“It is not just about sustainability or waste management or resource capture.

“There are challenges for everybody. There’s a role for everybody, including the waste management industry and the ‘waste generation’ industry.”

He concluded his speech to the meeting by urging members to help Defra put together an evidence base by providing much-needed data and, in Fead’s case, lessons from other countries. 

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