Research papers and reports published by the RRfW programme are listed below: for other publications (posters, presentations etc), please visit our ResearchGate page. Project publications are listed on individual project pages: AVAnD, B3, CVORR, INSPIRE, MeteoRR, and R3AW.

RRfW coordinated a Research Topic in collaboration with the Frontiers journals platform to raise visibility and drive momentum in the resource recovery from waste research. Please see: Resource Recovery from Waste Research Topic

Resource Recovery from Wastes: Towards a circular economy.

Editors: Lynne E Macaskie, Devin J Sapsford, Will M Mayes. Royal Society of Chemistry, Green Chemistry series. E-book doi: 10.1039/9781788016353 Print ISBN:978-1-78801-381-9 (due to be released on 31 October)

Cover image of the Resource Recovery from Wastes book published by the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2019Written by authors representing the full breadth of the RRfW programme, this book aims to introduce systems thinking to the field of waste and resource management. The topics covered range from the use of biogeochemical processes in resource recovery to the application of engineered nanomaterials, with information relevant to both academia and industry. The broad range and cross-disciplinary nature of the topics in this book will make it a valuable resource for those working in circular economy research, green chemistry and waste and resource management.

Open access: Chapter 1 – A New Perspective on a Global Circular Economy by Anne Velenturf, Phil Purnell, Lynne Macaskie, Will Mayes and Devin Sapsford (Pages 1 – 22). To log in register for a  free Royal Society of Chemistry publishing  personal account.

Resource Recovery from Waste end-of-programme brochure

Purnell et al. February 2019. Open Access.

RRfW end-of-programme brochure coverRunning from 2015 to 2019, the Resource Recovery from Waste (RRfW) programme is a £7m strategic investment by NERC, ESRC and Defra to deliver strategic science in support of a paradigm shift in the recovery of resources from waste, driven by benefits to the environment and human health, rather than economics alone.

The end-of-programme brochure outlines the strategic purpose of the programme and highlights the advances made towards these goals. The programme covered a highly diverse set of themes, such as ecosystem stewardship, multi-dimensional value, zero waste residue, recovery from bulk industrial wastes, harnessing biology and contributing to reducing carbon emissions. The combination of the diverse themes, people and projects brought together by RRfW offered a fertile context for the radical ideas and discoveries presented in the brochure to emerge.

The brochure summarises the work done by RRfW to co-produce a vision for a circular economy with academia, industry and government (pg 34-37). RRfW also assessed the political and regulatory challenges for resource recovery and overarching policy recommendations are given on pages 38-39. The future infrastructure needs for resource recovery and key intervention points for making the business case for resource recovery are also covered (pg 40-41).

Building a circular economy. How a new approach to infrastructure can put an end to waste. A Green Alliance report in collaboration with RRfW.

Libby Peake and Caterina Brandmayr, Green Alliance (2019). Based on research by Phil Purnell and Anne Velenturf.

Image of the front cover of the Building a Circular Economy reportStrategic planning of new infrastructure is needed to ensure the development of an economy which minimises resource use and waste, by lowering demand for new goods, through reuse, repurposing and the remanufacture of products. This report outlines three scenarios for England with varying degrees of circularity. We have analysed what infrastructure would be required under each of these scenarios for three common, high impact material streams from household waste: plastic, textiles and electrical equipment. A transformation scenario is best for the environment and the economy. The report makes three recommendations to set the wheels in motion: carry out an infrastructure stocktake; set up a materials database within five years, and; create a £400 million circular economy starter fund.

A Call to Integrate Economic, Social and Environmental Motives into Guidance for Business Support for the Transition to a Circular Economy

Anne P. M. Velenturf, Paul D. Jensen, Phil Purnell, Juliet Jopson and Norman Ebner (2019). Administrative Sciences. 9(4), 92; doi: 10.3390/admsci9040092. Open Access. This article belongs to the Special Issue Industrial Ecology and Innovation

Formal business support services able to help businesses implement resource efficiencies are fundamental to accelerating wider participation in a circular economy. However, current guidance assumes that companies are solely driven by monetary factors. However, this ignores the growing number of businesses with social and environmental missions. The diverse motivations and willingness of business managers to engage in a circular economy should be investigated further with results feeding into broader and more inclusive business support guidelines in the future to accelerate the transition towards a circular economy. The article is discussed in this RRfW blog.

Circular economy and the matter of integrated resources

Anne Velenturf, Sophie Archer, Helena Gomes, Beate Christgen, Alfonso Lag-Brotons, Phil Purnell (2019). Science of the Total Environment. 689, 963-969. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.06.449. Open Access. (Published online: 27 June 2019)

Circular economy has gained momentum in government and industry as a way to both address limited resources and excess waste. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation ‘Butterfly diagram’ has been very influential, with its separate biological and technical resource flows shaping actions. But organic and inorganic elements are integrated in natural and engineered resource flows. This article proposes a new diagram for sustainable circular economy embedded in natural processes, integrating organic and inorganic resource flows. This new conceptual space will support development of effective circular economy technologies, business models and policies. A more detailed overview of this article is given in the following RRfW blog.

Delivering radical change in waste and resource management: Industry priorities

Anne Velenturf and Phil Purnell (2018). Open Access. (Published online: 26 Sept 2018)

RRfW has been working with academia, government and industry to develop a shared vision for the transition to a circular economy. This reports captures the industry perspectives, with participants from a range of industries with interests in UK resource and waste management. The industry view on the future changes required to enable a circular economy aligned well the academia and government perspectives, although industry gave less priority to wellbeing and human rights. A range of important barriers were identified, strikingly all within government’s control to change. Six key actions for industry were identified, including embedding extended producer responsibility within corporate responsibility policy, engaging with policy development, innovating processes and business models, and educating staff and consumers about resource recovery to support behavioural change. The report is discussed in more detail in the following RRfW blog.

Making the business case for resource recovery

Anne Velenturf and Juliet Jopson (2019) Science of The Total Environment. 648, 1031-1041; doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.08.224 (Published online: 18 Aug 2018). Open Access.

This article outlines how to write business cases for resource recovery. Resource recovery experts identified drivers, barriers and actions for resource recovery as part of the Resource Recovery from Waste annual conference in 2017. From this 37 key themes were identified, providing a list of ingredients for business cases to industry and government. As tackling all 37 themes would amount to a lengthy business case, network analysis was used to identify key intervention points which may have the greatest influence. The most connected themes related to: 1) Expanding the types of values and costs considered from primarily economic to also include environmental, social and technical aspects, and 2) Governmental aspects such as regulatory change and policy integration. Enabling technologies and skills as well as resource security were also important.

Graphic abstract from Velenturf and Jopson 2019, doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.08.224. Reproduced under Creative Commons license Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Co-producing a vision and approach for the transition towards a circular economy: Perspectives from Government partners

Anne Velenturf, Phil Purnell , Mike Tregent , John Ferguson , Alan Holmes (2018) Sustainability, 10, 1401; doi: 10.3390/su10051401 (Previously available at Preprints 2018, doi: 10.20944/preprints201802.0024.v1. Published online: 05 Feb 2018). Open Access.

The Resource Recovery from Waste programme (RRfW) promotes a transition towards waste and resource management in a circular economy that restores the environment, creates societal benefits and promotes clean growth by engaging relevant actors in the transition process. RRfW collaborates with academia, government and industry to co-produce a shared vision and approach to realise such a transition. Reflecting insights from RRfW’s government engagement, this article presents a positive outlook for changing the UK economy and society. Four themes and an approach are proposed, including recommendations for regulatory instruments and a stable policy framework. Key messages are discussed in the following RRfW blog.

On a voyage of recovery: a review of the UK’s resource recovery from waste infrastructure

Phil Purnell (2017) Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure, doi:10.1080/23789689.2017.1405654 Open Access. Published online: 08 Dec 2017

This paper presents an overview of the UK’s Resource Recovery from Waste (RRfW) infrastructure. It introduces the waste management sector and its evolution into a resource recovery industry supporting a circular economy, and analyses key public-domain sources to review existing and planned infrastructure investment, regulation, capacity and new technologies. Chronic data deficiencies, political uncertainties, regulatory context and fiscal issues are major barriers to the sustainable development of the sector and are impeding progress towards the professed goal of achieving a circular economy. The paper is discussed in this RRfW blog and was presented at the Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport forum in January 2018.

Resource recovery from waste: Restoring the balance between resource scarcity and waste overload

Anne Velenturf and Phil Purnell (2017) Sustainability, 9 (9), 1603; doi:10.3390/su9091603 Open Access.

This article aims to explain the rationale for initiating the RRfW programme, outlining the need for a Circular Economy that contributes to a resilient environment and human well-being. It discusses waste and resource management in relationship to ecosystem stewardship, environmental and social boundaries, and economic models. It proposes that a participation approach is needed to engage the multiple stakeholders required for transformative changes, and concludes with the participatory strategy adopted by RRfW to illustrate how academia can play a leading role in the transition towards a Circular Economy. Read more about this paper on the RRfW blog.


Research and innovation challenges for resource recovery and circular economy: Workshop proceedings. June 2019. Resource Recovery from Waste. Report released from workshop on research and innovation challenges for resource recovery and circular economy, hosted jointly by RRfW and NERC in March 2019.

Developing technology, approaches and business models for decommissioning of low-carbon infrastructure: Workshop Proceedings. January 2018. Resource Recovery from Waste. Workshop report from the decommissioning and resource recovery of low-carbon energy infrastructure workshop held in Leeds on 16th January 2018. It was co-organised by the University of Leeds, Resource Recovery from Waste and Innovate UK.

Mini-project reports

Multi-dimensional value assessment of compost oversize production and management from open air composting

Eleni Iacovidou, Anne Velenturf, Kok Siew Ng (2019). Open Access.

Compost oversize, a predominantly woody fraction left over from the composting process, could be suitable for use as a fuel. However, stringent end-of-waste regulations and contamination with non-organic and potentially toxic materials, make compost oversize difficult to process. The result is that most is stockpiled, combusted in inappropriate facilities or sent to landfill, leaving its value unrealised. To assess the sustainability of alternative compost oversize management options, the CVORR framework was applied. The study found that, from environmental and social perspectives, gasification was a better option for compost oversize management compared to incineration and stockpiling. However, for this to be economically and technically feasible the contamination of the compost oversize needs to be reduced from the point where waste is placed into the bin: this will require householders’ taking increased responsibility for separating their waste, local councils and waste companies having sufficient funding for implementing waste management and checking green waste quality upon receipt at the composting site, and capacity to support enforcement of regulations. This report is the outcome of the RRfW mini-project ‘Recovering Multidimensional Value from Compost Oversize’.

Participatory Situational Analysis: How can policy and regulation support resource recovery? Synthesis workshop report

Anne Velenturf, Rachel Marshall, Ana Suarez-Suarez, Henriette Christensen, Eileen Yu, Carmen Falagan, Devin Sapsford, Helena Gomes, Will Mayes. (2018) Open Access.

The results presented in this report arise from four workshops that took place throughout the UK in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. Using a ‘participatory situational analysis approach each workshop strived to answer the question: “If we wanted to realise resource recovery in the UK, how would it be possible within our policy and regulatory context?” Stakeholders attending the workshops ranged from academia, government, industry and the NGO WRAP. This report captures their insights into the diverse legislative areas that need to be integrated and aligned when aiming for a more circular economy, the ways in which policy and regulation enable this, and which particular actors need to be involved and the actions they should take. Taking the results into account, an action plan with seven key elements was recommended. This report is the outcome of the RRfW mini-project ‘Participatory situational analysis for the implementation of RRfW technologies and vision‘.

Evolution of mechanical heat treatment for resource recovery from municipal solid waste in the UK

Anne Velenturf, Eleni Iacovidou, Kok Siew Ng, Joel Millward-Hopkins (2018). Open Access.

This report is the outcome of the RRfW mini-project ‘Formulating the Environmental and Social Business Case for a Resource Recovery from Waste Process‘. The mini-project explored the potential for higher value applications of fibre recovered through a steam rotating autoclave (a form of a Mechanical Heat Treatment process). The report reviews the trends driving change in the composition and volume of residual municipal solid waste in the UK, and the evolution of the waste infrastructure required for its management. Analysis of a number of economic scenarios identifies the potential for recovering resource from the residual waste stream using this emerging technology, yet further research is required to fully assess the opportunities and challenges associated with each scenario. The report concludes by outlining that the processing of segregated waste streams, such as coffee cups, could significantly increase the quality of recovered resources and enable higher value applications.