Councils and SMEs want circular economy to be a ‘much higher priority’

New survey findings published today (8 March) suggests local authorities and SMEs want the circular economy to be much more of a priority – both for their own organisations and for UK policymakers.

The research with 300 senior decision makers in local authorities and SMEs across England found that 77% believe accelerating a global circular economy should be a high priority for policymakers in the build up to COP26.

In addition, 74% of all respondents would like their own organisations to make more use of the circular economy. 28% are not convinced that circular economy practices are currently well embedded in their organisation.

Despite the appetite for change, the survey also shows the need for greater clarity on the circular economy. 23% of those polled weren’t sure of how a circular economy can help tackle the climate crisis, and over a quarter felt that they needed more help to understand how they and their organisations could benefit from it.

With the UK preparing to host COP26, this is a critical year for climate action – and the circular economy needs to be high on the agenda for everyone, with London leading the way.

The survey was commissioned by ReLondon – the new name for the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB) – to help illustrate the need for an urgent increase in awareness and action among policymakers, local authorities, businesses and citizens. From today, LWARB and all its programmes – Circular London, Resource London and Advance London – will become ReLondon, so the organisation can speak with a stronger, more consistent voice and help organisations understand and benefit from the opportunities that circular economy can bring.

Wayne Hubbard, CEO of ReLondon, said:“A circular economy can help deliver the drastic reductions in carbon emissions needed to meet global targets. There is growing awareness that our ‘take, make, dispose’ model isn’t working; changing the way we all make, consume and dispose of stuff is an essential contribution to tackling the climate crisis.

“With the UK preparing to host COP26, this is a critical year for climate action – and the circular economy needs to be high on the agenda for everyone, with London leading the way.”

“Our new positioning responds to stakeholders and partners telling us they want us to have a clearer and simpler story to tell. We have evolved significantly as an organisation over the past 12 years – and as ReLondon, we’ll be better able to make London a global circular economy leader by revolutionising our relationship with stuff and helping waste less and reuse, repair, share and recycle more.”

Circular economy

Almost half (45%) of climate-changing emissions currently come from the global management of land and the production of goods and food. Tackling these emissions requires a transformational change to a circular economy, which keeps materials and resources in use for as long as possible.

As well as reducing emissions, the circular economy can help shorten supply chains, reduce vulnerability to market shocks like Covid-19, support the creation of higher quality jobs and promote more connected communities.

Despite the multiple benefits of a circular economy, it is often overlooked as part of discussions on tackling the climate crisis, and only 50% of all respondents in the new survey feel ‘very confident’ knowing what a circular economy means. With momentum building around COP26 in November – one of the most important events yet in tackling the climate crisis – ReLondon is highlighting the urgent need to ensure the circular economy is much more widely understood and adopted.

The survey also showed notable differences in attitudes and approaches between local authorities and SMEs:

  • 55% of SMEs are very confident they know what a circular economy means, compared to 46% among local authorities
  • 82% of local authority respondents say circular economy practices and approaches are well embedded in their organisation – compared to 62% among SMEs
  • 74% of local authorities feel the climate crisis will have a direct negative impact on their organisation if urgent action isn’t taken in the next 12 months – compared to only 48% among SMEs

To help inspire action, ReLondon will run the fourth Circular Economy Week from 14 – 18 June. The week will bring together businesses, policy makers and NGOs from across London and beyond to help drive a circular, more resource-efficient economy.

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