Waste not, want not

THE UK MUST TRANSITION TO A CIRCULAR ECONOMY THAT KEEPS MATERIALS AND GOODS IN USE FOR AS LONG AS POSSIBLE THROUGH REUSE, REPAIR AND RECYCLING

A circular economy means materials will be in a constant cycle of use, recycle, and reuse. This will create thousands of jobs, prevent waste from entering the natural environment, and reduce carbon emissions.

THE PROBLEM

  • The UK’s recycling rate has remained stagnant over the last decade, standing at 45%, short of its 2020 target of 50%.
  • What doesn’t get recycled gets sent to landfills or for energy recovery through incineration – incinerators are estimated to emit 11 million tonnes of CO2 every year.
  • Carbon emissions from the waste management sector accounts for 4% of the UK’s total carbon emissions.

THE SOLUTION

  • Transition to a circular economy that keeps materials and goods in use for as long as possible through reuse, repair and recycling.
  • Create a £400-million Circular Economy Fund to develop circular infrastructure and business models.
  • Set official standards for circular design principles with minimum repairability requirements to extend product lifetimes.
  • 70% recycling rate target for 2025 and ban biodegradable waste going to landfill.
  • Incineration tax to incentivise private waste management companies and local authorities to invest in material sorting and recycling infrastructure.
  • Ban unnecessary single-use plastic.

THE OUTCOME

  • A circular economy decreases the need for carbon-intensive extraction of raw materials whilst providing new employment opportunities.
  • Transitioning to a circular economy could increase GDP by 8% and reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2030.
  • Combined with recycling rates of 85% by 2030 this could create 517,000 jobs.
  • Prevent plastic leaking into, and damaging the natural environment.

LEARN MORE: POLICIES IN ACTION

Wales

The Welsh Government has invested heavily in its recycling system, setting ambitious statutory recycling targets and supporting local authorities to improve their recycling systems and waste prevention. Wales currently has a 62.8% local authority municipal waste (waste produced both by households and non-households) recycling rate for 2018/19 (60.7% just for households) and the Welsh Government recently set municipal recycling rate target of 70% by 2025. It has recently released a new circular economy strategy which outlines plans to be net-zero emissions by 2050, make £2 billion of savings for the Welsh economy, recycle 100% of its waste by 2050 and to introduce a ban on highly-littered single-use plastics by 2021.

 

Milan

Milan separately collects its waste and has a recycling rate of 59.5%. Milan is tough on waste prevention – general waste that can’t be recycled is presented in clear bags so other residents can see what’s in it, which has led to a 2% reduction in general waste arisings, while residents will receive fines of up to €50 if waste is in the wrong bin or put out at the wrong time. Milan recycles 50%of its organic waste and runs 25% of its 1,300-strong fleet of vehicles on biomethane produced by the food waste collected in the city.

 

The Netherlands

The Netherlands has introduced a tax on the import of residual waste to be used in incinerators, standing at €31 per tonne. An equivalent in the UK would force the UK to invest in better recycling systems and technologies, to remove as much recyclable waste from the residual fraction as possible and to reduce the amount of residual waste it either sends abroad (the UK sends about 14% of its residual waste abroad, half of which goes to the Netherlands) or has to deal within the UK.

 

The EU

The EU introduced the Single Use Plastics Directive in 2019, which provides the legislative basis for a ban on single-use plastic cotton buds, straws, plates, cutlery, beverage stirrers, balloon sticks, oxo-degradable plastics and expanded polystyrene food containers, beverage containers and beverage cups by 2021.