Drawing on 5 years of research, RRfW has pulled together their work on recovering resources from industrial waste to highlight where changes in policy are necessary in order to promote circular economy approaches in industrial waste management.
RRfW Policy and Practice Notes
The use of organic waste in the bioeconomy has the potential to contribute towards the UK’s strategic goals of clean growth, resource security and reducing use of fossil fuels. While the reduction of avoidable organic waste remains a priority, a number of waste streams are likely to persist and could provide a significant feedstock for the UK bioeconomy. The greatest environmental, social and economic benefits of resource recovery from organic wastes are associated with the displacement of fossil fuel derived chemicals and materials, and the combined products of nutrients and energy from anaerobic digestion. Organic wastes offer multiple resources that can be exploited most efficiently by technologies working in synergy with each other. Investments into different options for using organic wastes are driven by government policy and resource demand, in addition to technology readiness. Policy and regulations should encourage industrial synergies and an increase in the diversity of resources recovered from organic waste in order to be able to respond to future resource demands.
Industrial wastes from the mining and manufacturing sectors contain metals such as vanadium, cobalt, lithium and rare-earth elements. Many of these are currently 100% imported and also necessary for clean technologies including wind turbines, solar panels, energy storage and a multitude of electronics. Recovering these resources from industrial wastes has the potential to contribute towards the UK’s ambition for clean growth, resource security and reducing carbon emissions. However, the current regulatory framework for industrial wastes was not designed with the circular economy in mind and policies will need to become more integrated in order to unlock the potential of resource recovery to contribute to clean growth, create social benefits and maintain environmental protection.
Find out more about the policy work being undertaken by the RRfW programme on our policy project page.