It seems as though the concept of a ‘circular economy’ is here to stay. This buzzword will, I believe, soon become as familiar as ‘recycling’.
With the need to be circular ever more on the Government’s agenda, and the European Commission promising a revised circular economy package by the end of the year, there has never been a better time to pose the question: what do we really mean by being circular?
First we need to define the term. The All-Party Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group (APSRG) is working hard with Defra to do just this, and final conclusions will be drawn in a report later this year.
We need to highlight the examples of inspiring work already being done that proves what is possible. Businesses need motivation and guarantees of success if they are to restructure their entire way of operating to fit with the circular economy model.
Last year, two of Policy Connect’s allparty parliamentary groups, APSRG and All-Party Parliamentary Manufacturing Group, recognised in their joint Triple Win report that remanufacturing is one way of being circular. Remanufacturing is also key to achieving EU resource efficiency targets. You can read more about it on our website.
Our report has been a huge success, and has brought remanufacturing to the fore in terms of political and industrial support, and highlighted the circular economy concept.
But it has also raised more questions. Remanufacturing alone cannot achieve all of our circular economy goals. We need to look at the supply chains of businesses across the country and globally, as well as looking at reverse logistics. This holistic approach is a fundamental part of being truly circular.
As part of this, APSRG is currently exploring resource efficiency in supply chains. A parliamentary inquiry on this subject, in the form of an essay collection, is currently being conducted and will launch in Parliament in early December. Of course, there is still time to get involved with this important project, and we will be issuing further information to the public in the coming weeks.
But the process is not as straightforward as simply restructuring supply chains because the barriers to such restructure need to be identified and overcome. We can also assess whether the barriers for large corporations are the same as those for SMEs and micro-SMEs. This is no overnight solution, which is why policy-making is so important.
Reverse logistics also play a crucial part in the process by returning materials to producers, reducing loss of materials and resources along supply chains and improving transparency among producers and suppliers. If the Government can do this and businesses react, then imagine the possibilities. Business models can become circular and avoidable waste can become just that: avoided.
When it comes to resource-efficient supply chains, I believe that the number one policy should be to make it easy for businesses to do the right thing. Policy measures that encourage them to adjust and monitor their supply chains are absolutely critical to ensure improvement.
That’s where the line becomes the circle.
Laura Owen is manager of APSRG and head of sustainability at Policy Connect