Circular economy

Up to £35 billion required for changes to resources and waste activity over next 20 years

Seismic shifts in how we view and define waste over the next 20-30 years will require investment of up to thirty-five billion pounds, according to a report published today by SUEZ.

The report, entitled The Economics of Change in the Resources and Waste Sector, provides a high level analysis of some of the key current economic drivers in the sector and goes on to explore how future environmental policy target metrics related to CO2, natural capital and biodiversity will necessitate substantial additional investment and a major shift in mind-set by the sector to accommodate new services, products and revenue streams.

Among the new cost drivers in the next twenty years will be the need to invest in new technologies and facilities capable of converting residual waste not just into electrical energy, but fuel and chemical molecules too; to overhaul logistics and container infrastructure; collect new or niche material streams, such as flexible packaging; develop new data collection and analytics systems; and invest in education and behavioural change communications campaigns.

The report provides a breakdown of the key cost and value drivers in the current resources and waste management landscape – such as the proportion of costs for various waste management activities within council budgets and comparators in costs between England and the devolved administrations.

The report will be formally launched by SUEZ at the RWM Exhibition in Birmingham on Thursday 12 September 2019 at 1.15pm in the Circular Economy Connect Theatre, sponsored by SUEZ.

CEO of SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, David Palmer-Jones said: “We are facing a revolution in the resource and waste sector. With radical new policies on the horizon, new value will be found in niche waste streams, which will demand new technologies and products. Furthermore, our sector will need to consider what we do, and how we do it, in light of carbon targets and the need for restorative action on natural capital, biodiversity and the general environment.

"The resources and waste sector has seen massive change over the past decade, and actors in our sector have invested more than ten billion in the transition away from landfill, moving waste materials further up the waste hierarchy.

"However SUEZ believes, as is set out in this short report, that the coming transition over the next twenty years will be even more radical, and will require accelerated investment more than three times greater than that made over the past decade or so.

"The money flows and economics of future resource management systems will be fundamentally different to today, in support of new objectives and through new participants in the sector, drawn in by new legislation and regulation.

"The weight-based metrics we have used to date have taken us so far, and resulted in more sustainable practices as material has shifted away from landfill, but new more sophisticated metrics, seeking to directly address the major environmental challenges of our time – climate change and the loss of biodiversity and natural capital – will change the game significantly. Full net cost recovery producer responsibility and new methods of harvesting materials, like deposit return schemes, will change revenue and material flows and will require new consumer behaviours – which we know from the last decade of recycling, are not easily or quickly changed.

"We welcome the challenge though and, with the support of government, through transparent, consistent, and ambitious policy, there is no reason why the sector cannot deliver the investment, skills and technologies required for a more sustainable future.