Paul Vanston, manager of the Kent Resource Partnership and an RWM in partnership with CIWM ambassador, outlines what makes a good week for the circular economy
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This week is exciting. The ‘resource ambassadors’ met on Monday. A vibrant discussion on what the focus should be for the 24 of us. I was inspired to see a collective approach of people I respect and admire from across the supply chain.
This was followed by the ‘circular economy’ speech by Janez Potocnik, EU Environment Commissioner. The speech was full of life, plain speaking, and gave realities as they are actually are and not as an audience would like to hear them. I was impressed – probably the most invigorating political speech at national level I’ve heard in many a year. A very appreciative audience showed it with the most prolonged and thumping applause. I felt proud.
Wednesday saw the CIWM Annual Conference in London. I write ahead of that event and I’m all fired up for it, including helping a little bit by chairing the first day afternoon session. It’s titled ‘Optimal decision-making – balancing imperatives across the waste hierarchy’. It’s in two parts: Taking the difficult decisions, and making the system work for us. Another group of people I admire are doing the hard work in their presentations. I’m looking forward to hearing how we can all move forward.
On Thursday the highlight will be a discussion on the electricals action plan – and Friday’s highlight is progress on a cross-sector project to recycle crystalline PET oven trays… then to a nice pub in Sevenoaks with a colleague!
Are We Making Progress?
On paper that’s a great week. But I wonder how much progress this makes in the grand scheme of things. Is it OK to inch ourselves towards the circular economy slowly when the Commissioner espoused the need for a speedier timetable? How much traction will the ambassadors have in whatever their messages transpire to be? Are the challenges and problems of e-waste evolving faster than our solutions to tackle them? Will the financial and technical viability of C-PET recycling be proven and available nationwide in time for councils’ contracts? Will the Kentish beer be as good on Friday as it was last month?
Only the final question gets a firm ‘yes’ as I write. Yet I’m very optimistic on all the others too.
Firstly, I work in an industry with people who share a view the economy can thrive when it takes resource limits into account. In my 13 years in resource management, my respect for all parts of our supply chain has grown fantastically. The people I work with across the industry can get things done. Though I’ve found that happens best when people understand why organisations in the rest of their supply chain act as they do.
Secondly, I sense the industry is on the verge of a culture change. Many are ready for the circular economy ethos to guide their thinking and their planning. Current practices may not yet be perfect, but the will and drive is there to do things better, and that inspires confidence.
Thirdly, I’m confident the British will up our game to deliver the vision the EU Commissioner laid out. We may resist for a while, and we may convince ourselves Britain should do things more slowly than our continental cousins. But I’ve no doubt we’ll get there, mainly because we have to. The planet’s resource limits will always have the final say.
Paul Vanston is manager of the Kent Resource Partnership. He is an ambassador for RWM in Partnership with CIWM.