How UK manufacturers can prepare for the EU's circular economy strategy

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Many UK manufacturers are already implementing green initiatives, from conducting carbon footprint analysis to achieving ISO 14001 2015. However, an anticipated EU strategy set to release near the end of 2015 will provide new guidance on how industry should think about production and waste. It’s called the ‘circular economy’, and it’s about creating products, manufacturing methods, and supply chains that minimise waste and encourage the consumer towards refurbishing, repairing and recycling.

With the public consultation phase complete, manufacturers’ HSCE managers, operating directors and managing directors should already be looking to how the EU circular economy strategy could help strategically guide their environmental goals and policies.

Traditional manufacturing process

 process1

Minimise resource waste, minimise volatility

Cutting back on resource use isn’t just good for the environment. When materials are in scarce supply or come from outside the EU, material supply can be a source of competition that leads to unpredictable supply and costs. The more UK manufacturers can look to local suppliers (also saving on fuel and transport costs in their supply chain), also look to reduce the materials needed for their products, the better.

Green should contribute to black, not red

Just as with any business improvement, going green often requires an initial outlay, such as conducting assessments, working with experts to formalise plans, and changing business processes. However, the circular economy can, over time, contribute positively to the bottom line. Here are a few ways companies can realise tangible benefits from the circular economy:

  • Development of innovative solutions and new markets for materials previously viewed as waste (e.g. using foundry sand to manufacture sandbags or redirecting waste from waste plants to produce energy)

  • Appeal to consumers or other manufacturers looking for your products to contribute to their minimised footprint

  • Create green product lines

  • Recent research from Veolia have shown that the implementation of the circular economy could be worth up to £29 billion annually in the UK.

Examine every stage of the supply chain

The circular economy involves looking at the entire life of a product, including extraction of raw materials, design, distribution, consumption and reuse/recycling/repair or discarding. Having an expert in to review during the design stage is particularly critical as about 80 percent of a product’s environmental impact is determined by decisions made at this stage.

Circular economy manufacturing process

process2 

A manufacturer that considers options for minimising or reusing waste in their particular stage of the lifecycle ensures they get the most the value of materials and energy used in the products they create. And that’s just good business sense.

Those interested in finding out more about the circular economy strategy straight from the experts should attend EEF’s HSCE briefings in November, held at locations throughout the UK.

Author

This person has now left EEF. Please contact us on 0808 168 1874 or email us at enquiries@eef.org.uk if you have any questions.

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