Can waste management and recycling aid the economy? The UK says yes.

| July 3, 2013

The UK is positioned to ride an innovative economic boom that’ll turn trash into cash.

Lord de Mauley, Parliamentary Under Secretary at Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) recently issued a challenge to both public and private sectors: a) waste less, and b) grow the businesses of waste management and recycling in the UK.

waste management and recycling organization

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs aims to improve waste management and recycling. From here8now.

Lord de Mauley’s “waste vision” will turn England into “a place where substantially less waste is created in the first place and where the vast majority of what is created is reused or recycled and where whatever’s left goes to energy generation. In essence…a thriving and growing waste management industry.”

Lord de Mauley has good reason to believe that there is a hidden economic boom in waste management and recycling: The waste sector is growing by 3-4% each year, and the recycling and recovery sector alone has generated £7 billion in sales in 2010-2011, employs 56,000 people, and contributes £3 billion to the UK economy.

Lord de Mauley’s challenge will create competition among private sectors as they battle to develop, manufacture, and sell products that are more conducive to recycling. Still, he thinks that the government should be responsible for serving as the initial catalyst for change.

Speaking at a conference of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) in June, Lord de Mauley said that the “the most significant part of government’s strategy must be setting the conditions that allow the market, businesses, local authorities and individual people to make the changes that will propel us toward the long-term vision.”

Lord de Mauley  believes this vision will drive growth in a more circular economy. “Everyone—governments, industry, communities and civil society organizations—has a stake in making this happen and I am confident people want to do the right thing,” he said.

waste management and recycling bins

Defra’s Parliamentary Under Secretary envisions a country in which everything is recycled.
From Marteoneofmany.

So how does desire to “do the right thing” translate into action?  “It is a question of making it making it easy for them,” says Lord de Mauley, “and of setting the conditions to allow the market, businesses, and people to effect the change necessary.”

Those changes may be as simple as incentivizing manufacturers of sustainable goods. They also may involve educating the public—a necessary step according to conference attendee Rob Holdway, director of Giraffe Innovation Ltd, who spoke on behalf of the private sector. “We still haven’t engaged enough with businesses or consumers on sustainability,” he said.

The bottom line is that this potential economic boom only manifests if businesses and consumers get on board with the initiatives, driving up competition as well as demand for services.

waste management and recycling sign

Clearly marked containers make recycling easy.

In order to generate awareness—thus bridging the gap between initiative and action—the message is clear: the message on waste management and recycling in the UK needs to be clearer. Lord de Mauley recently called it a “bugbear” that different areas of the UK distribute different messages about recycling.

Creating clearer messaging and engaging with the businesses and consumers who will drive real change is a high priority for Lord de Mauley. In a June interview with UK news site MRW (Materials Recycling World), he said, “It can’t take the brains of an archbishop to work out a way in which we can all have two or three simple messages about putting our waste out, [such as] don’t mix broken glass with paper, don’t put the greasy soup container in with…[other recycling].”

Perhaps a few green signs can translate into some green (er, and some purple and orange and red, as is the case with British Pounds)!

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Category: Recycling programs

About the Author ()

Ellen Hunter Gans has been writing for RecycleReminders since the blog’s inception. She is passionate about words, new media and, of course, recycling.

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