In a recent House of Commons Briefing paper 'Household recycling in the UK' (pub. Feb 2016) The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) estimates that over 210,000 new waste jobs could be needed across the UK which could rise to about half a million if the circular economy agenda receives significant development.
WRAP estimated that in 2010, the UK economy was 22% ‘circular’. A circular econonmy they define as; "re-using, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products and regarding waste as something that can be turned into a resource. It maximises the value of resources in order to benefit both the economy and the environment."
WRAP estimates that by 2030, the UK economy’s circularity could increase to 27% whilst also benefitting from a reduction in materials consumption of "30 million tonnes a year", which would lead to a significant increase in jobs in the waste industry.
The Environmental Services Association also suggest that a more circular economy could increase UK GDP by £1.4 billion a year. "Designing for material recovery would increase the proportion of the waste stream that is recyclable. Between now and 2020, 395 million tonnes of potentially recyclable material will pass through England’s waste management sector. On current trends, we expect only 255 million tonnes to be successfully returned to the economy. But if we could capture the remaining 140 million tonnes of recyclable resources there would be £1.4 billion in extra recyclate revenues for the UK economy." (Going for Growth - A practical route to the circular economy - pub June 2013).
Recent reports suggest that there has been a plateau in household recycling. In an article published today (7 March 2016) the BBC suggest that household waste has risen in nearly 60%, with rate in recycling.
Experts say the rise is partly down to "green fatigue" and people spending more after the economic downturn.
However, Defra’s policy is still to move towards a zero waste economy in England, where we reduce, reuse and recycle all we can and therefore cannot afford to lose momentum towards this ultimate goal.
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have equivalent zero waste policies, but each has diverged in terms of specific targets and approaches. Wales is the only administration in the UK to have introduced statutory local authority recovery targets for waste recycling and maybe it is time the rest of the UK follow suit?