Circular Economy

1st December 2016 | Recycling

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) said that embracing the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for single-use products, an important component of the European Commission’s plans for a Circular Economy, could produce many benefits for the UK. This is whether or not it stays in the singular economy post-Brexit. In a new policy paper entitled “The Role of Extended Producer Responsibility in Tackling Litter in the UK”, the ESA said this could help cash-strapped local councils, provided that the system is designed properly.

In England alone, ESA says cleaning parks and streets and closing highways to collect litter currently costs local authorities £800m a year. Applying EPR to the biggest and most intractable litter sources – cigarette butts, chewing gum and food and drinks packaging – could save around £300m a year.

ESA sketches a vision for the future where 80% of new goods have been designed to maximise recycled content, and waste is used as a raw material in the manufacturing process. This is an illustration of the circular economy at work. It would reduce the need to import materials, which is an important point for a standalone economy. Residual waste generated after manufacturers reduce their own production scrap could be processed into fuels and used as energy. This could enable manufacturers to reduce raw materials input by more than 38m tonnes by 2025 and possibly generate savings to the economy of €23bn.

On the retail side, the authors point to the need for the waste and resources industry to provide the recycling infrastructure for shoppers to return materials to the economy. They also note that eco-labelling would help consumers identify products with high recycled content and thus encourage retailers to make the switch to more readily recyclable products. If all retailers matched the recycling performance of the best, some 2.5m tonnes of additional recyclate valued at £250m could be collected. And that is the start of the circular economy at work.

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