Leading the way in the recycling revolution

By Kristy Spindler | 26 January 2022

As we de-couple economic growth from resource consumption, references to waste management are being replaced by the term ‘resource efficiency’ and a new, circular economy; where precious resources are kept in circulation for as long as possible through repair, reuse and recycling.

Councils are at the forefront of the revolution. Although progress towards resource efficiency has been challenging during the pandemic, with a 1.5% dip in recycling, and waste per person increasing by 1.8%, change is coming. Local authorities are ready to lead the way, driving the circular economy transformation and working towards de-carbonisation.

The circular economy can cut across service silos and deliver additional community benefit at times when councils face competing challenges; increasing social care demand, structural budget issues and the drive to net-zero. The opportunities are vast for addressing economic, social and environmental challenges while helping tackle inequality in our communities. At macro and micro levels change is happening; from share and repair cafés tackling social isolation, re-use shops that deliver to those without transport, wood recycled into panels for social housing, to targeted employment and skills for care leavers, ex-offenders and HGV apprenticeships.

Alongside this, the Environment Act sets a clear direction. While we await the much-anticipated next steps on waste reforms, it’s certain that increased responsibility for those producing waste, financial levers to drive the right behaviours, and a drive to consistency for households and businesses are coming. This will create risk and uncertainty, and also opportunities for local and combined authorities.

We are supporting councils’ reviews of contracts to assess what impacts the reforms may have and starting early on developing future models and sourcing options. We are analysing material flows, not just in authorities’ own areas, but working together across regions to find solutions and engaging with social value across services, making that as much part of contract management as procurement. This involves working with community groups mutually to support the right behaviours and outcomes, and creating new commercial opportunities as trusted advisors in the sector.

The local government sector has bold ambitions for linking the circular economy and net-zero. Local Partnerships is actively engaging with councils to support the delivery of their aspirations for the circular economy, from calculating carbon baselines (localpartnerships.org.uk/greenhouse-gas-accounting-tool) through to development and delivery of sustainability action plans and adaptation (localpartnerships.org.uk/climate-adaptation).

kristy.spindler@localpartnerships.gov.uk 

@LP_localgov

localpartnerships.org.uk

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Environment Waste Recycling inequality climate emergency social value
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