Closing the Loop

There are increasing concerns that the UK will miss both its recycling targets and a rare opportunity to boost economic growth

bottles 2

With the need to conserve resources, both from an environmental and economic standpoint, it would seem obvious that the UK should do all it can to encourage the concept of closed loop recycling.

This is where the waste of one product is used to make a new one.

A number of leading companies are already doing this, for example M&S’s ladies coat from recycled cashmere and wool, and HP’s industrial print cartridges.

However, Chris Dow, the chief executive of the UK’s only such processing plant – Closed Loop Recycling, is concerned that outdated legislation is seeing the UK subsidise the export of valuable used plastic to China.

Developing countries such as China have long been a destination of the rich world’s waste products, but China’s Green Fence Initiative, introduced in February 2013 to reduce China’s pollution from recycling activities, is changing the value of old plastic.

Dow said that the results of current UK policy are “less British infrastructure, less British jobs and greater reliance on unreliable international markets”, not to mention unnecessary transportation of plastic across the world.

Closed Loop Recycling [watch video here] works with a range of UK retailers to recycle old plastic bottles into food grade flakes, which are in turn used to make other packaging, including new bottles.  

Meanwhile many commentators expect the UK to miss its challenging plastic recycling targets.

Circular Economy     

Closed loop recycling is one aspect of Circular Economy, a concept which has been gaining considerable traction over the last few years, especially under the leadership of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.  

For example, Bradford University is now offering the world’s first ‘circular economy’ MBA.

While pretty infographics and videos make the concept sound so upoptian and straightforward you wonder why it hasn’t been implemented across the globe already, the reality is clearly more challenging.

Not all products and materials can be easily recycled and reused so product longevity needs to be addressed and sharing schemes like ecomodo promoted, whilst ensuring that economic growth is not jeopardised.

Diverting the human innovation that currently goes into designing new stuff and channelling into reusing and remaking old stuff might help.

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