Local authorities need to develop a new model for providing the private sector with material, or they could find themselves competing for the same material.
That was the warning from British Retail Consortium head of environment Bob Gordon, who was speaking at a seminar on the circular economy organised by LRS Consultancy.
He said: “The commercial sector will bring us good things and it will bring us bad things. If local authorities don’t build a model that is competitive with the private sector, then they will not get the material.
“The private sector will grab it and local authorities will manage our rubbish.”
Tower Hamlets head of public realm Jamie Blake added that he gets frustrated “when local authorities put out a tender that involves sharing rewards, but don’t want to take the risk of the downside [when prices for materials fall]”.
He added: “We need to embrace competition. If Tesco takes all of my material then I save money…The cost of materials has got to double or more to cover the cost of collection. We spend a lot of money on recycling and would probably need to be earning [an average] of £140 per tonne to break even.”
At the same event, LRS managing director Dee Moloney said that for a circular economy to be created, where materials go back into use once they have been used initially through mechanisms such as reuse and recycling, then there will need to be an alignment of:
- CO2 and environmental impact
- Material quality
- Culture and behaviour change.
She added: “We need to understand how these work together and how all of this can be made to work at the same time [to create a circular economy].”
While Dulux paint manufacturer Akzo Nobel post-use product recovery manager David Cornish said that his company was prepared to commit resource into take back schemes for its material, but needed more expertise.
He said: “We understand it will be a cost. We can turn out product cheaper than we can recycle it. We will accept that cost. But what we can’t do is areas that are not in our area of expertise and we need help from sectors, such as the waste industry, to do that.”