Brexit and environmental plan Whatever the final outcome, Brexit is set to have a huge impact on the waste and recycling industry.

Waste is one of the UK’s key exports as other countries don’t produce enough to feed their Energy Recovery Facilities (ERFs). After the UK leaves the EU, we could see tariffs placed on these exports meaning the UK has to find an alternative waste solution.

There are a number of ERF’s in the pipeline in the UK and the recently announced Resources and Waste Strategy will see the UK Government seeking to make these more efficient to ensure the UK can manage its waste in a sustainable way.

“Coca Cola is aiming to boost

the recycled content of its bottles to 50% in Great Britain with the majority of this sourced from within the UK.”

Ultimately the government’s 25-year plan has already been impacted by Brexit. Before the recent announcement, the Resources and Waste Strategy was last officially mentioned by the government in September 2018. Since then it’s been nothing but Brexit showcasing just how much of the government’s time and energy is being spent on the UK’s exit from the EU.

The prevalence of a circular economy The phrase ‘circular economy’ is going to replace ‘single- use plastic’ and become the recycling buzzword for 2019. The huge public response to cutting down on plastics will shift to include the entire waste industry. Major producers of single-use products such as white goods and mattresses will face more scrutiny than ever over the life cycle of their products.

The much-awaited Resources and Waste Strategy has a major focus on this. And it is absolutely right to. Research shows that if the core principles of the circular economy were adopted UK businesses could benefit by up to £23bn per year and in Europe there could be a boost of over €1.8tn to the economy by 2030.

This is an opportunity too good for the UK to pass up, especially in the wake of Brexit uncertainty. Expect to see a huge push from government and consumers to get the circular economy off the ground in earnest next year.

Producer responsibility Of course, it can’t just be down to government and consumers to promote the circular economy. Producers are starting to take more responsibility for their products life cycle and I’m anticipating a big change in the way products are manufactured, sold and ultimately repurposed in the coming year. We’ve seen this happen in

a major way with the introduction of the ‘latte levy’ with coffee chains, such as Costa and Starbucks offering a 10p discount for people bringing their reusable cups.

These proactive actions can improve the public image of an entire industry. Not only is this a good advertisement for the respective business but actively producing the circular economy can significantly reduce costs for the business. The buck ultimately stops with the producers and I want to see a big push from all industries to use recycled products at every phase of development.

Some major firms are already taking the lead in this. Coca Cola for instance is aiming to boost the recycled content of its bottles to 50% in Great Britain with the majority of this sourced from within the UK. This is just the start and other big brands are finally seeing the huge financial benefit taking responsibility will have. I fully expect to see a race towards greater sustainability across all sectors in the coming year.

Innovation While 2018 saw the launch of a Plastics Research and Innovation Fund, I am hopeful that we will see more funding towards innovation for all areas of waste.

If we do see the government implement legislation specifically aimed at businesses increasing recycling, this will have a knock-on effect for recyclers who will have to ensure they can cope with the extra amount and time for dealing with the waste effectively.

Mattress recycling is one of the most problematic items for recyclers to deal with, as each pocket spring-based mattress has between 1,000 and 10,000 single springs wrapped inside each polypropylene pocket. This is why it’s so important that waste businesses prioritise a focus towards research and development, with support from the government, so that more efficient processes can be put in place.

“The phrase ‘circular economy’ is going to replace ‘single-use

plastic’ and become the recycling buzzword for 2019.”

Research and development has been a particular priority for us with the majority of our investment going into developing groundbreaking systems to make the recycling of mattresses more viable and much more efficient.

While we are in a position where we can invest our time, resources and money into innovation, not every recycler can afford to. Although a fund for all areas of waste may be too much of a big ask, especially with the developments from Brexit, I do expect the government to be offering more support to businesses for exploring innovation options and stressing the importance of the circular economy. TOMORROW’S FM | 45

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