Greater Manchester outlines plans for circular economy shift

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has announced that its Sustainable Consumption Plan (SCP), has been approved. The plan aims to support the region’s five-year Environment Plan, which was launched at the GM Green Summit in 2019.

Manchester Town HallThe plan underscores the measures necessary to move Greater Manchester’s businesses towards a ‘model that is more reliant on reusing and recycling materials’. GMCA says it will also assist residents into making more sustainable lifestyle choices, part of the region’s wider goal of becoming ‘carbon neutral by 2038’.

The plan will be delivered by a ‘Challenge Group’ of public, private, third sector and academic partners, formed under the GM Mission Based Approach, reporting into GMCA via the Green City Region Partnership. An annual implementation plan will be developed and agreed with the Challenge Group to set key targets and priorities for each year.

To achieve these objectives, GMCA has outlined four priorities: ‘Moving to a Circular Economy, Managing Waste Sustainably, Reducing Food Waste and Moving to Sustainable Lifestyles’.

The plan highlights a need for industries to produce more sustainable products that are in use longer, moving away from a ‘throw away’ society and towards one centred around reusing and recycling, using raw materials as a ‘last resort’.

GMCA states that it will work with partners in the city to explore ways to help businesses with this shift. The body will create a ‘business to business’ platform, aiming to bring organisations together to find new, circular ways of working. This will start with the textiles industry.

In an announcement, GMCA highlights the work of its waste contractor, SUEZ UK, which operates the Renew Hub in Greater Manchester. The facility repairs ‘hundreds of tonnes’ of used items, in preparation for resale in its three ‘renew shops’. Profits are reinvested back into the local community, GMCA says.

To manage waste sustainability, GMCA states, the SCP Plan will look to learn more about where waste is coming from throughout Greater Manchester, both from households and businesses. It will then use this information to help change business models and behaviours.

The SCP Plan will also set out proposals to cut down food waste, alongside schemes to increase home growing and composting and redistributing unwanted or unused food to those facing financial difficulties. This approach, GMCA says, will make Greater Manchester’s food consumption ‘more affordable, sustainable and will help to ensure more people have access to healthy food.’

GMCA also highlights the role that residents can play in becoming ‘environmentally and socially responsible’, outlining plans to continue delivering communications and marketing campaigns that will ‘educate, raise awareness and encourage everyone to make more sustainable life choices.’

Cllr Neil Emmott, GMCA Lead for Green City Region and Waste & Recycling, said: “As our society faces more economic pressures, we need to help people and businesses reduce avoidable waste, which can also reduce bills. We need to keep products and materials in use for longer to reduce pressure on the environment.

“Globally, we currently extract three times the number of natural resources than we did over 30 years ago. This figure is also expected to more than double by 2060 if we don’t make significant changes now.

“We need to see waste as a design flaw, not part of the process. This means changing how products are made and used in our city region. The public sector can support this by changing the way we buy goods and services, but we need other consumers and producers to play their part. This plan gives us a framework to work together on making system-wide changes, beginning with a focus on food, plastics and textiles.

“A huge part of this is supporting our region’s businesses to operate in a way that causes the least amount of waste without impacting their success; moving away from the make, use, dispose model and instead adopting an approach of replacing the use of scarce resources with fully renewable, recyclable or biodegradable materials. This needs to involve businesses working together to find the best ways of doing this within their industry.

“We all have to be better joined-up in how we tackle problems around waste. In particular, with the huge pressures people currently face just to feed their families, it’s just not acceptable that we also have a problem with food wastage. We need to – and will – explore new ways of ensuring food that would be going to waste is going to those who really need it. This will support our commitment to creating a greener future, but a fairer one too.

“We all have a part to play in making the changes we need so, as a city region, we are more resilient and are living more sustainably and we’ll continue to work hard to create more awareness on how people and businesses can reduce their negative impact on the planet.”