Collaboration, innovation and the shift to a circular economy

Six months into his new role as CEO of producer compliance scheme Ecosurety, Will Ghali talks about climate ambition, cross-sector collaboration and the role of the resource and waste sector in the transition to a circular economy.

At the end of this month, it is expected the Government will enshrine in law a major new climate change target. The target – to cut the UK’s emissions by 78% by 2035[i] – will be the world’s most ambitious and, if met, will move the UK more than three-quarters of the way to meeting its Net Zero by 2050 objective.

Announcing the new target earlier this year, PM Boris Johnson stated his intention for it to trigger investment and catalyse economic opportunities, as well as transform the UK into a ‘home to pioneering business, new technologies and green innovation’.

In the wake of such a bold climate objective, Johnson’s rallying cry for green innovation will have come as no surprise. Faced with the monumental challenge of driving down carbon emissions, every sector of society needs to work together to improve, rethink and redesign systems and processes with these environmental objectives in mind.

Faced with the monumental challenge of driving down carbon emissions, every sector of society needs to work together to improve, rethink and redesign systems and processes with these environmental objectives in mind.

The role that the resource and waste sector must play in this transition is not to be underestimated. Defra’s 2018 Resource & Waste strategy provided the initial call to action, stating ‘we need to stop taking for granted the stock of natural material resources we use in our daily lives through minimising waste, promoting resource efficiency and moving towards a circular economy.’

Transitioning to a circular economy was, in December last year, outlined by the Climate Change Committee in its Sixth Carbon Budget as a means of achieving ‘significant future emissions reductions’ through the ‘effective collection of separated valuable resources that can be reused or recycled.’ The call to action could not be clearer.

As the need to decouple economic activity from the consumption of finite resources increases, three things become clear. Firstly, Johnson’s ambition to build pioneering, green innovation to hit our climate targets is essential.

Secondly, the resource and waste sector can play a fundamental role in making the transition to a circular economy happen. Finally, we can’t do it alone. Collaboration across all sectors will be integral to a successful transition, and essential if any truly sustainable change can take place.

Collaboration to close the loop

Innovation, collaboration and investment into the recycling sector has directed Ecosurety’s approach to doing business for many years and it was these values that drew me to taking on the role of CEO at the start of this year.

Having spent 25 years working in consumer goods branded businesses, I have seen the value in collaboration and building partnerships to deliver change for good. Working with business to find new and innovative ways to collect, recycle and re-use materials that have been historically difficult to recycle is a strength of Ecosurety’s and we’re keen to build on that where we can.

Last week Ecosurety – together with environmental charity Hubbub and branded manufacturers including Mars UK, Mondelez International, Nestlé and PepsiCo, launched the UK’s first Flexible Plastic Fund. The £1million fund was created through a shared desire to improve the recyclability of flexible plastic.

Through working on this particular initiative, I saw how much enthusiasm and energy there is to deliver positive change.  Collaboration and investment often go hand in hand.

Innovate to accelerate

In the spirit of using strategic investment to kick-start innovative ideas, Ecosurety this week launched the second round of its Exploration Fund. Set up to provide financial support to research and innovation projects across the UK, the fund offers up to £150,000 to innovative, game-changing projects tackling the negative environmental impact of packaging, batteries and waste electronics and helping to accelerate us towards a circular economy.

Helping to minimise waste, cut resource use and transform the resource and waste sector for the better, the Exploration Fund is, in essence, a springboard for innovation and research projects that can shift the way we collectively think, respond to or deal with waste.

We’re hopeful that following this week’s launch, we’ll see another wave of ideas and innovations come forwards.

Then, thanks to a shared industry belief in the power of collaboration, we’ll tap into the knowledge of our independent panel of judges to select this year’s winners.

By working together collaboratively, the resource and waste sector can play a vital role in supporting innovation. It can help foster ideas and get new systems and processes off the ground.

As the Government prepare to write into law the most ambitious carbon reduction target in the world, we as a sector need to step up our own ambitions too. As I’ve witnessed in the first six months of my role as CEO at Ecosurety, there’s a huge amount of creativity, passion and drive in our sector.

We just need to recognise the power of collaboration and make change happen.


[i] Compared to 1990 levels

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