There has been much discussion about the role of the circular economy and how it will transform recycling. Greater resource productivity can only be a good thing for industry and big brands are starting to take notice. Adidas, for example, has recently announced it will produce 1 million pairs of shoes made from ocean-salvaged plastics. HP has launched its ‘Insta Ink’ service, enabling customers to recycle printer cartridges as standard. While it’s great to see businesses leading the way, it’s a far larger challenge to get consumers, industry and policy makers on board with creating a truly global circular economy that will save the planet for future generations.
Now that article 50 has been triggered, the UK has an opportunity to create its own self-sustaining energy supply. At the same time, while we live in a global economy, there are opportunities for the UK to recycle locally even if the production value comes from elsewhere. For example, card produced in a mill in China is shipped to the UK to be used then shipped back to China to be recycled again. While it may be more cost-effective to have the card made in China, we believe there are economies that can be achieved by recycling that card here.
Sustainability advocates need to do more to create a tangible blueprint for what this new economy will look like and how many service sectors need to ‘join the dots’ for success. The power that recycling companies have to join these dots should not be underestimated. With the latest technological innovations, recycling can become a critical part of a contemporary economy with robust environmental infrastructure.
The rise of artificial intelligence and robotics will soon have an impact on the recycling sector and in facilitating the circular economy. We may soon move to a future where machine learning robots have the ability to separate waste correctly for a streamlined collection process.
As more and more people opt for flexible working in our ‘gig economy’ the lines between household and business waste are being blurred. Innovative technology needs to be developed to ensure that this waste is being collected in the right way, and the right time, to suit the needs and habits of a changing workforce.
There is no doubt that the circular economy presents tremendous potential. The key now is to see not just words or hype – but tangible action put in place to make this circular model a reality, now. The UK is perfectly placed to take the lead here – ‘joining the dots’ and working with the recycling industry to make meaningful change.