RWM review: “Going green is good for business”

Billed as “more than just an exhibition”, Circular Online attended RWM and Letsrecycle Live to hear discussions on the critical topics in the sector and observe the innovative green technologies on display. The event was organised in partnership with the Chartered Institute of Wastes Management (CIWM).

Here’s what we got up to over the two-day event where we heard from some of the most insightful voices in the sector.

Green skills: “Going green is good for business”

The morning session in the Future Talent Hub looked at green skills, the business opportunity and critical need, and asked the question: how does the resource and waste sector prepare for the transition to a low-carbon society?

Suez’s Dr Adam Read, CIWM’s Katie Cockburn and Sarahjane Widdowson Director at Intelisos Ltd, updated delegates on the work CIWM is doing to look at how the resources and waste sector can make itself an attractive career prospect for school leavers.

With challenges such as an ageing sector, a lack of diversity and overcoming the stigma that still surrounds waste, the panel conceded there are significant challenges, but also significant opportunities.

“Going green is good for business,” Dr Read said.

The Plastic Crisis

In the morning session at the Material Village Theatre, Amy Meek, 19, and Inaaya Ijaz, 12, the co-founder and Chief Voice Officer of Kids against Plastic spoke about what the charity does and what we as consumers can do to reduce plastic pollution.

Meek called for us all to be more proactive at working towards reducing single-use plastics. Both speakers emphasised the importance of showing brands that consumers want to make ethical shopping decisions.

Meek called for us all to be more proactive at working towards reducing single-use plastics.

However, Ijaz then compared plastic pollution to an overflowing bathtub, saying that instead of wiping the water off the floor, the solution is to turn off the tap. Using this analogy, she said the most effective way to prevent plastic pollution is to reduce the manufacturing of single-use plastics.

How Social Value is Delivering Change

At the Local Authority Theatre, Barry Flanagan, Sustainability Manager at Recycling Lives, spoke about real-world examples of social value in business.

Flannagan highlighted that 100% of prisoners get access to employment services; however, he said that only 17% of prisoners leaving custody walk into employment upon their release.

To help increase this number, one initiative has seen a mechanics workshop open to help ex-prisoners learn valuable skills.

Only 17% of prisoners leaving custody walk into employment upon their release.

To explain how social value is delivering change, Mariefi Kamizouli, principal consultant at The 55 Group, first sought to explain how we measure social value.

Following Kamizouli was Sarah Ottoway, Sustainability & Social Value Lead at Suez UK, who said that social value = environmental + social + economic as it benefits the environment, communities, and the economy. She also said that it allows us to learn and understand the “true value” of what the sector is doing.

Consumption: “Industrialising reuse”

RWM consumptionTackling the topic of consumption, Suez’s Stuart Hayward-Higham warned that if the resource and waste sector doesn’t lead the consumption and reduction conversation then another sector will. He said the sector is in the best position to do just that and that there’s a need to industrialise reuse.

The panel referenced links to consumption and waste levels, citing the drop in waste experienced during the “lockdown” period of the pandemic.

Emma Beal, Managing Director, West London Waste Authority, said it was important to talk about “consumption emissions” to create the distinction between things we buy to “live good lives”, and consumption that “isn’t necessary and causing the destruction of the planet”.

Behaviour change was also among the topics discussed by the panel. Dr Jane Beasley, Director at Beasley Associates Ltd, said it was important not to be “preachy or judgmental”.

The Impact of the Resources and Waste Strategy

Chris Mills, Special Advisor at WRAP, gave the audience the policy implementation and formation perspective on the potential impacts of the Resources and Waste Strategy.

Updating us on the outcome of the last consultation, Mills told us it spoke about moving authorities towards a comprehensive range of recycling to include materials like cartons, metal, and film.

The biggest change to the industry in 20 years.

Paul Van Danzig, Policy Director at The Wastepack Group, then followed to explore the impact EPR will have on producers and the wider industry. Describing the implementation of EPR as the “biggest change to the industry in 20 years”, Van Danzig said the shift in obligation to the producer will cause a huge uplift in cost.

He said that for the regulations to be successful, they need to be right from implementation to ensure consumer buy-in and not become a “refinancing exercise” for the Treasury.

The Role of Resource Management in the Road to Net Zero

RWM net zeroThe ESA’s Jacob Hayler said as a sector, resource and waste tends to be overlooked in their entirety, with a focus on landfill, rather than looking at the sector’s activities as a whole. This was reiterated by the Green Alliance’s Heather Plumpton, who said it was disappointing that conversations at COP26 didn’t include more resource discussion.

“This is where the circular economy can come in, in terms of supply chain resilience,” she said. “We need to tell the government this. It’s not just an environmental proposal, it’s an economic one too.”

The critical minerals issue is a massive one, the panel agreed.

Minimum recycled content for batteries and eco design were cited as some possible solutions, as well as demanding reduction by choosing efficient pathways, such as fewer cars on the roads by promoting car clubs for example.

The Outcomes of EPR

Outcomes of EPRThe panel in the packaging theatre this morning tackled the potential outcomes of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). Chaired by CIWM’s Lee Marshall, the panel included Valpak’s Adrian Hawkes, Tesco’s James Bull and Steve Morgan from Recoup.

The panel touched on several issues surrounding EPR and what the outcomes might be, including the uncertainty surrounding to what level the government is committed to its timeframe in the face of the cost of living and energy crisis.

The scheme administrator was identified as one of the big pieces of the jigsaw that the sector is still waiting for, including how much strategic oversight this role will have.

The panel also touched on consumer behaviour change and recycling collection consistency as parts of the puzzle.

Net Zero – Lessons and Leadership

In the afternoon of day two in the Keynote Theatre, CIWM’s Lee Marshall went on to update delegates on CIWM’s Net Zero ambition, including its recently published roadmap.

Recent data for the UK shows the waste sector contributes around 8% of all UK greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

He explained that waste collections are still mainly powered using fossil fuels but changes are happening.

Recent data for the UK shows the waste sector contributes around 8% of all UK greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

A Department for Transport consultation has proposed phasing out fossil fuel-powered HGVs by 2040 and while this presents a challenge for the sector, Marshall said it’s something that’s being prepared for.

According to a 2021 report by Circle Economy, a circular economy could reduce GHG emissions by 38% – a carbon reduction of almost 23bn tonnes.

Now only 8.6% of the world’s economy can be considered circular. This is down from 9.1% two years earlier.

A digital DRS

In the Packaging Theatre’s last session of this year’s exhibition, Duncan Midwood, co-founder of the Digital DRS Alliance (DDRS), discussed his vision for a DRS system that includes a digital element.

DDRS offers a more convenient and effective solution for DRS as it provides a future-proof solution, can drive public engagement, and reduce cost, Midwood said.

Subliminal behaviour among consumers is what we should be aiming for to drive the circular economy.

He said “subliminal behaviour” among consumers is what we should be aiming for to drive the circular economy and a DDRS will help to do that.

However, there are still challenges with a DDRS, such as fraud and abuse of the system and how to get the code on the packaging in the first place, given the current manufacturing processes, which is why it needs brand support.

RWM & Let’s Recycle Live Wrap up

After two days, a combined audience of 12,000 visitors, 200+ speakers across 9 conference theatres and more than 550 exhibitors, RWM & Let’s Recycle Live ended for another year. A wide range of speakers covered a variety of topics across the event. If you weren’t able to attend this year, hopefully, we’ve shared some of the most interesting insights from RWM & Let’s Recycle Live and we will see you there next year.

Send this to a friend