NLWA laments industrial strategy ‘omissions’

North London Waste Authority (NLWA) has responded to government’s draft industrial strategy, pointing out that it makes no mention of waste, the circular economy or society’s need to manage physical resources better.

Central government is currently consulting on a draft industrial strategy with the aim of addressing long-term challenges to the UK economy. 

Its green paper, ‘Building our Industrial Strategy’, which is out for consultation until 17 April, was initially welcomed by members of the waste and resource industry, though many feel that the approach does not go far enough towards creating a more circular economy. Indeed, earlier this week, think tank Green Alliance published a collection of essays from business and policy professionals, suggesting that the UK government still has a way to go to effectively incorporate resource efficiency in its latest industrial strategy.

NLWA response

The North London Waste Authority (NLWA), which is made up of seven north London boroughs serving 1.9 million residents and dealing with approximately 850,000 tonnes of waste a year, has been active in the debate on bringing about a circular economy. Earlier this year, its third annual conference – the North London Waste Prevention Exchange –focused on the topic: ‘The circular economy in a post-Brexit environment: The role of local government and businesses’.

In reviewing central government’s industrial strategy green paper, NWLA identified several areas relevant to its work, including ‘securing economic benefits from the transition to a low-carbon and resource-efficient economy’ and ‘reducing raw material demand and waste in our energy and resource systems and promoting well-functioning markets for secondary materials and new disruptive business models in a future 25-year environment plan’.

However, the body notes: ‘[T]he industrial strategy makes no mention of waste, includes no direct references to the concept of the circular economy or any mention of society’s need to manage physical resources better due to the finite nature of natural resources and the potential constraint that resource limitations could place upon long term economic growth. Accordingly, NLWA’s response focuses on these omissions.’

The authority’s response calls on government to frame the strategy ‘within the context of the constraints on global resources’, noting that businesses and other governments around the world are already ‘increasingly recognising the importance of retaining the material resources that are the foundation of their economies’.

It goes on to add that the strategy’s mentions of resource efficiency are ‘not sufficient’, explaining: ‘The challenges that resource scarcity will place upon economic growth and the opportunities that a different approach to business strategy, i.e. one which recognises the protection of natural resources, is missing from the document. Resource scarcity, and therefore the need to protect natural resources, should be a dominant theme of the strategy rather than relegated to a couple of mentions within the context of rising energy costs.’

The response also highlights that the economic opportunities presented by a circular economy model are missing from the strategy, that proper valuation of natural capital would also provide new economic opportunities, and that waste infrastructure was largely omitted from the strategy, despite being identified as a priority area in the Treasury and Cabinet Office’s 2014 national infrastructure plan.

‘Very disappointed’ at the ‘missed opportunity’

Councillor Clyde Loakes, Chair of NLWA stated: “The authority had been hopeful that the industrial strategy would, amongst other things, create a framework to link-up the resources increasingly available from local authority and commercial recycling services with the demands of a newly-coordinated industrial sector that could be of real importance to the country’s future outside of the EU.  We are very disappointed at this missed opportunity and hope very much that the government’s thinking elsewhere on the circular economy and resource efficiency will be fully incorporated into the final strategy that the government adopts.”

NLWA’s full response to the industrial strategy green paper is available on its website.