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Five more years: circular economy

With resource efficiency largely absent in the Conservative manifesto, the Government’s plans for tackling resource security and waste are yet to be revealed, despite progress being made in Europe.

With resource efficiency largely absent in the Conservative manifesto, the Government’s plans for tackling resource security and waste are yet to be revealed, despite progress being made in Europe.

The arrival of a majority Conservative government has thrown up some confusion as to the direction of resource security and efficiency for UK business. 

Whereas energy policy is largely set to continue along the same road set out by the coalition government (save for a few well-publicised changes such as the ban on onshore wind subsidies), waste and resource policy received no mention in the Conservative manifesto.

Meanwhile, both Labour and the Liberal Democrat manifestos pledged to undertake a detailed review of resource security, as part of a wider call from industry groups to establish an Office for Resource Management (ORM) with a specific remit for tackling resource scarcity and encouraging the growth of the circular economy.

Resource risks

According to manufacturers' organisation, EEF, nearly two thirds of manufacturers cite rising resource costs as a risk to future growth

Speaking before the election, Susanne Baker, senior policy advisor at EEF, warned: “The risk to our material supply is well-documented and it’s clear that the UK urgently needs a coherent, co-ordinated response. The current piecemeal approach is leaving us lagging behind our peers; we are under-prepared, over-exposed and vulnerable.”

However, with David Cameron’s cabinet featuring a number of pro-green voices, there are hopes that resource and waste management may find its way back onto the policy agenda.

European progress

Much is likely to depend on the European Commission’s revised circular economy policy package, which is set to open to consultation this summer. The new package is expected to place a greater emphasis on encouraging the production of ‘circular’ goods and services than its predecessor.

Progress on circular business models is already being made at the European level, with a new online tool now being launched to help businesses measure how well their products perform in the context of a circular economy.

Measurement tool

The EU Circularity Indicators Methodology, funded by the European Commission and developed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, allows businesses to analyse the material flows of products and processes to help assess the ‘circularity’ of their business models.

Craig Simmons, chief technical advisor at Anthesis, a sustainability consultancy involved in the project, said: “For the first time ever, companies can turn to an established metric to see how well they are making the transition from linear to circular models [of business]. This creates more opportunities to benchmark success, develop better products and reduce the risks of relying on finite materials.”