Resource Use

UK businesses unite to turn waste into wealth

The Waste to Wealth Summit, held today (22 November), unites 200 leaders of business, government, academia and civil society in the fight against waste, in aid of preventing irreversible climate change and preserving UK resources.

Hosted by event partner Veolia at its Southwark Integrated Waste Management Facility in London, The Prince’s Responsible Business Network or Business in the Community (BITC) will challenge the businesses in attendance to change their ways for good.

UK businesses unite to turn waste into wealth
Inside Veolia's Southwark waste management facility

Both the Prince of Wales and Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, will be delivering speeches on the subject of waste in the UK and what the business sector, as well as government, can do to change it.

Prior to the summit, Gove commented: “Today builds on the excellent work that HRH the Prince of Wales has done to raise environmental issues over many decades and help to drive real change. By working together, we can all play a part in eliminating unnecessary waste to leave the environment in a better state for future generations.”

Read more: Prince Charles backs bottle deposit schemes to combat ocean plastic pollution

Business leaders will sign a Waste to Wealth commitment that aims to double the nation’s resource productivity and reduce avoidable waste by 2030, pre-empting the UK industrial strategy 2050 targets. Over 40 leading businesses have already signed the commitment, including major brands such as Bupa, Greggs, Heineken and Unilever.

The signatories will be committing to: setting targets to improve productivity of resources; collaborating across industries and value chains; working towards reducing avoidable waste by 2030; redesigning how resources are used in our products; and sharing progress through annual reports.

By signing the commitment, businesses will also recognise the recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that stated we only have 12 years to alter how we use resources until the climate change consequences will be irreversible.

Additionally, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has selected seven Waste to Wealth “Champions” who will develop innovative solutions to reduce waste: Burger King, JLL, Sodexo, European Metal Recycle, Interface, Nestle and Sainsbury’s. These companies represent the key industries that require change, as recommended by Defra: food, construction and metals.

Consumer appetite for change

Calls for businesses to make change are coming increasingly from consumers themselves, as evidenced by a survey published today by BITC, in partnership with market research company Ipsos MORI. Over 2,000 UK adults were questioned, with the results revealing support for initiatives to reduce waste, including money-back incentives for returning used packaging, loyalty points, a move to hiring rather than buying items and dedicated spaces in shops to return used packaging and clothing.

Money-back incentives proved to be the most popular proposal, with 82 per cent of UK adults supporting the idea of returning used packaging to the place of purchase.

Read more: Public supports resource efficient policies, says report

Amanda Mackenzie, Chief Executive of BITC, said: “The research shows that customers welcome action from business which encourages them to do the right thing. While the UK Industrial Strategy deadline of doubling our nation’s resource productivity and eliminating avoidable waste by 2050 is ambitious, our responsible business network can help accelerate progress and aim to achieve this by 2030.

“Businesses can start by finding out what their resource footprint is. Let’s tackle this critical problem together and lead the world in doing so.”

As statistics from Defra reveal, the UK generated 202.8 million tonnes of total waste in 2014: it is only with both businesses and consumers changing their attitude towards waste that this figure can be reduced.

The Waste to Wealth Summit comes as the UK is awaiting the publication of the government’s new Resources and Waste Strategy. Whilst details are yet to be finalised, the strategy is expected to mention cutting out avoidable plastic waste and present clear targets for becoming a zero avoidable waste economy by 2050.

To find out more about the summit, visit the BITC website.

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