Circular economy

A pipe dream or a reachable reality?

On 16 October, the Women’s Recycling Alliance (WRA) celebrated its one-year anniversary, members gathered in Birmingham for networking, a personal development session and an insightful industry discussion. Female representatives from companies including Viridor, Veolia UK, and Yorwaste Ltd, are already on board with the initiative, and after a successful first year the group is looking for further recruits in 2020. The event was coordinated by Clearpoint’s development director, and WRA founder, Sarah Sanpher-McDowell. Find out more about Sarah’s work here.

The sector-specific discussion was led by Sheila Chauhan – communications, education and outreach manager at Veolia UK.

What is a circular economy?

A circular economy is an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources. It entails gradually unpicking economic norms from the consumption of limited resources and designing a system where waste is reduced – or even removed in the initial stages of design. For this to work effectively, it relies on a shift to renewable energy sources and requires economic, natural and social changes. It is based on two principles:

  • Eliminate waste and pollution at design stage
  • Reuse materials where possible

A circular economy which aims to keep resources in use for as long as possible is an alternative to a traditional economy – often described as linear and falls into three stages: make, use and dispose. Whilst in theory this is a simple and self-explanatory movement, understandably it’s not something that’s going to fix itself overnight and has a shift in mindset at its core.

Why a circular economy is important?

  • Reduces waste
  • Improves productivity in manufacturing
  • Future-proofs UK economy
  • Helps reduce the environmental impacts of production and consumption in both the UK and overseas

How can it be achieved?

The group discussed whether the Government’s Waste and Resources Strategy is ambitious enough in strengthening the vision of a circular economy. Many elements of the Strategy were discussed at length.

The discussion agreed the steps required to reach a circular economy – some simpler to action than others:

  • Every little helps! – there’s a misconception that one consumer’s habits don’t affect the bigger picture
  • Council recycling policies need to be consistent across the UK, otherwise the messaging is too hard to follow
  • The circular economy must feature in government legislation as a priority and support and funding is key to making bigger changes
  • The communications around waste and recycling need to be straightforward and consistent for both consumers and businesses – simple messaging is key
  • Grassroots education around recycling needs to more robust – how can recycling journey be made easier for consumers from a young age?

Many businesses and individuals are already making their pledge to working towards a circular economy but there’s much more still to do.

If you’d like to find out more about the WRA and how to join, visit our dedicated webpage. The WRA is a platform to meet and network with like-minded professionals and discuss industry topics.

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