Collaboration is the key to a circular plastics economy, says the head of WRAP Cymru, Carl Nichols, speaking ahead of his appearance at the upcoming CIWM Resource Conference Cymru 2018
We’re still a week away from February, yet it seems certain that 2018 will be the year we witness a step change in the way the public views plastics. Not a week passes without another newspaper headline on the subject, without one more big brand vowing to radically change its plastics use.
Of course, it’s not just business making these commitments: Theresa May launched the UK Government’s 25-Year Environment Plan on 11 January, whilst WRAP announced that it will be working in partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation on a new initiative to transform the UK’s plastics system and tackle plastic pollution.
I am extremely proud of this initiative, and indeed of the work WRAP has already delivered to reduce our reliance on virgin materials and help businesses adopt more circular business models. And, as head of WRAP Cymru for the past four years, I am particularly proud of the work we’re doing here in Wales to create a more circular plastics economy in line with the Welsh Government’s ambition for the nation to become zero waste by 2050.
This involves working with consumers, local authorities and businesses operating commercial recycling collections to maximise the quality and quantity of plastics being recycled, as well as with manufacturers to grow the demand for high quality recyclate.
Through the Collaborative Change Programme, which WRAP Cymru delivers on behalf of the Welsh Government, we support local authorities to adopt the most efficient and cost-effective recycling services, which will produce recyclate that can generate the best prices. At the same time, our Recycle for Wales campaign is helping drive up household recycling rates, whilst minimising contamination.
We are working with commercial recycling companies, providing hands-on business support and guidance to help them grow their segregated collections capacity. And we are working with manufacturers and moulders from several sectors, providing them with specialist technical support to help them introduce recycled content into their products, or increase the proportion of recycled content they use.
Bringing Manufacturers and Reprocessors Together
In November, we also brought together manufacturers and reprocessors to discuss the barriers to greater use of recycled content, and how WRAP Cymru – and government – could address these barriers. In addition to the valuable insights it gave us into the challenges that must be overcome if we are to grow the market for recycled plastics in Wales, we received great feedback from delegates about the new relationships they had forged as a result.
It is this, more than anything, which gives me great hope for the future. It is why I am confident that we can create a truly circular plastics economy – and that the UK, and in particular Wales, can lead the way.
Because if we are to reduce our reliance on single-use plastics, if we are to develop new products using recycled content and which are themselves recyclable, if we are to keep plastics out of landfills and oceans, we must take a holistic approach.
We must work throughout the supply chain. We must work with businesses and not-for-profits and governments. We must capitalise upon the groundswell of public opinion around plastics. Most importantly, we must work collaboratively.
This collaboration lies at the heart of Wales’ Plastics Routemap, which WRAP Cymru is developing on behalf of the Welsh Government, and which I will be speaking about at the CIWM Wales Conference on 14 March.
I look forward to working with WRAP colleagues, the Welsh Government, councils, fellow CIWM Members and the wider resource management and manufacturing sectors to implement its recommendations and ensure that we create the truly circular plastics economy, which Wales deserves. <
Carl joined WRAP in 2004 and held several senior roles before being appointed head of WRAP Cymru in April 2014. He is responsible for developing and delivering WRAP’s ambitious multi-million pound work programme in Wales, managing the relationship with the Welsh Government and leading the WRAP Cymru team.