Live News in Brief | RWM & Let’s Recycle Live

With the new collaboration between RWM & Letsrecycle Live 2022, 12,000 visitors are set to descend on the NEC in Birmingham on 14-15 September 2022 for two action-packed days. Check out our live updates for what Circular is up to at the event.

Day One

10:00-10:45 | 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 opportunity.

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

CIWM’s research will provide insight to support government decision making as well as provide valuable data to employers across the sector as they prepare for the human resource implications of the net zero transition.

It will also look at which “green” occupations in the resource and waste sector will be most important for driving the net zero transition in the near, medium and long term.

10:00-10:30 | 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 founded the charity Kids against Plastic with her sister in 2016 after studying the UN sustainability goals. When they became aware of the scale of plastic pollution they decided to take action to reduce litter and raise awareness of climate change.

Meek went on to explain one of the charity’s initiatives, Plastic Clever, which aims to reduce what she describes as the 4 big plastic polluters: bottles, straws, bags, and coffee cups. She says it’s a scheme that’s applicable across any organisations that over-use single-use plastics.

Ijaz then told us how she had made an impact on plastic consumption at her school through the initiative. She spoke to her headteacher and persuaded them to cut items such as bottled water. Despite some initial pushback from her fellow students, she said that through raising awareness of the plastic problem, her peers got behind the initiative – which has also saved money for the school.

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.

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.

As a solution to single-use plastics, Meek proposed implementing a closed-loop circular economy for our waste but said it is “far from perfect because of the impact of plastic pollutants on human health”.

11:00-11:45 | 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. Drawing on his 15 years experience working in the justice sector, he explored how the private sector can make a difference by helping to rehabilitate offenders.

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. Recently one workshop was visited by the 4-time Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel and Flanagan told us that Aston Martin has been in touch to see how they can get involved with the scheme too.

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. She explained that there is a qualitative, quantitative, and monetary way of doing this through metrics. Kamizouli then went on to say the benefits of monetisation when discussing social value, which included its actual impact, improved communication and decision making, and greater accountability.

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.

Ottoway explained how social value has formed the strategic basis for Suez moving forward. The organisation aims to be environmentally sustainable, socially accountable, and financially viable.

Finally, she spoke about how implementing reuse schemes is a great way to increase social value as it benefits communities and the economy by creating jobs, and benefits the environment by reducing waste.

11:00–11:45 | Consumption: “Industrialising reuse”

The panel in the keynote session What are you doing to reduce consumption? tackled 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 a there’s a need to industrialise reuse.

He clarified by this he doesn’t mean a “Victorian” industrialisation, but to take a good example and repeat it, both on a local and national scale. “That’s industrialisation,” he said.

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 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”.

She said people want solutions and the sector needs to create a sense of “empowerment”.

13:15-14:00 | The Impact of the Resources and Waste Strategy

In a discussion chaired by CIWM Policy & External Affairs Director, Lee Marshall, the Keynote Theatre heard what the potential impacts of the Resources and Waste Strategy could be. Opening proceedings, Chris Mills, Special Advisor at WRAP, gave the audience the policy implementation and formation perspective.

Mills said that the changes will require “significant” new container and vehicle manufacturing. At a time, when there are international pressures on supply chains among other issues. 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.

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. Van Danzig went on to say that he hopes EPR doesn’t become a “refinancing exercise”, asking the treasury to not reduce funding to local authorities off the back of EPR and instead increase investment to drive innovation.

14:15-15:00 | The Role of Resource Management in the Road to Net Zero

In this afternoon Keynote session, the panel discussed how the resource and waste management sector and help in reaching net zero ambitions.

The ESA’s Jacob Hayler said as a sector, resource and waste tends to be overlooked in its 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.

Looking at ways to combat this oversight, Heather suggested it’s good to tell the carbon story and the nature benefits or resource efficiency. She said in the current climate, referring to the cost-of-living crisis and supply chain resilience, it’s also good to talk about economic security.

She said – or rather hoped – supply chain issues would be front of mind for new Prime Minister Liz Truss.

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

The critical minerals issue is a massive one, the panel agreed and despite government producing a critical minerals strategy, there was disappointment at no new policy within.

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

Day 2

10:45-11:30 | The Outcomes of EPR

The 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 a number of issues surrounding EPR and what the outcomes might be, including the uncertainty surrounding to what level 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.

Marshall pointed out that c. 50% of councils advise recycling plastic bottles with lids on while c.50% advise recycling with lids off.

“After all this time, this shows the significance of the [consistency] challenge,” he said.

The panel agreed that the scheme administrator could make a big difference to consistency of messaging.

13:00-13:45 | 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.

He said that the resource and waste sector emissions have reduced by approx 63% since 1990, more than almost every other sector across the economy.

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 fossils fuels but there are changes happening.

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.

14:00-15:00 | A digital DRS

In the Packaging Theatre’s last session of this year’s exhibition, deposit return schemes (DRS) were tackled in a panel looking at how they can be practically implemented in the UK.

Duncan Midwood, cofounder of the Digital DRS Alliance (DDRS) discussed his vision for a DRS system that includes a digital element.

He told delegates of a Welsh DDRS trial sponsored by the Welsh Government which with implement a digital system.

Midwood says reverse vending schemes are effective, but they have a high cost. He said the opportunity with DDRS is that it can integrate with current kerbside recycling collections.

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.

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 well as how to get the code on the packaging in the first place, given the current manufacturing processes. He said it needs brand support.

Midwood said that while he sees digital plays a role in a conventional DRS, he sees the future as being 100% digital.

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