Author Archive Geoff Mason

“Green Money & How to Spend It”

SAVE THE DATE

Join the team from Chamber Low Carbon on the 5th June 2019 to learn about the environmental support available NOW to your business.

The event is focused around the official launch of the Chamber Low Carbon Grant.

Find out how you can access funding to help your business install renewable energy technology or energy and resource management measures.

On the day there will be a full programme of insightful and thought-provoking seminars highlighting the challenges and opportunities afforded by renewable technology – detailed agenda to follow.

The Supply Chain Marketplace will house over 30 exhibitors highlighting the latest technologies available from Chamber Low Carbon’s Lancashire-based solution providers.

The event will start at 10am – registrations and refreshments from 9:30am. The event will run until 4pm. Don’t worry if you cannot make the full session – we’d be delighted to see you for part of the day.

This is just one in a busy series of events and workshops run by the Chamber Low Carbon team. To discover our full programme take a look at our events section or sign up to our monthly newsletter.

Book Your Place

Taking control of carbon?

How the UK finally decides to leave the EU could affect our future ability to cut carbon emissions and the strength of post-Brexit environmental regulations. Meanwhile, one of the few certainties we do have is increasing evidence of climate change in action and more extreme weather.

 

Post-Brexit environmental regulation?

As an uncertain March moves into April, the UK’s political strife over Europe could have a significant impact on Britain’s world-leading low-carbon transition plans.

Westminster’s Brexit war is sending long-term ripples not only through Whitehall’s ministries but also the UK’s legally-binding carbon reduction commitment. But developments far away from London have made headlines too in the last month.

For example, what links our coastal mudflats, the UK’s ultra-long-range 25-year weather forecast, Greenland’s rain and climate-friendly milk? The answer is that they’ve all made recent carbon news.

Before looking at these later, it’s worth mentioning that mudflats may be surprisingly interesting. New research shows that our remote fens and wetlands could be super-efficient “sleeping giants” in locking away the CO2 driving global warming.

All plants store carbon. However, instead of decaying, the carbon from marshland plants is buried permanently. As sea levels rise with climate change, the new layers of sediment they wash in will help to store millions of tonnes of CO2 and also raise the level of the wetlands. A neat trick!

But first it is important to look at events closer to home.

Energy & Environmental Forum – coming soon

A more immediate question for North West companies is probably what links Brexit, Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s draft Environment Bill, the views of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) and East Lancashire Chamber’s first Energy and Environment Forum which is currently being arranged.

The answer is again carbon. However, this time it concerns new proposals for regulation that on the surface look robust but could have a major underlying weakness.

Martin Baxter, Chief Policy Officer of IEMA, is a lead figure in the national debate on these issues and a strong supporter of our new Forum where he will be a guest speaker in the near future. The Forum’s aim is to keep larger companies fully-informed about key environmental, energy and carbon issues and channel their views, comments and concerns back through the British Chambers of Commerce to ministers and Government.

Regulatory successor to the EU

Many people sense a post-Brexit opportunity. The Government says it wants its new environmental regime to be at least as good as – and better than – that developed over 40 years with the EU. Surveys show strong public support. A consultation in 2018 received more than 1,750,000 responses.

IEMA also sees this as an opportunity to break away from a system that is an “unnecessarily prescriptive, compliance driven, reactive (rather than strategic) and complex approach to the environment” and “poor at anticipating new issues” – such as single-use plastics and low air quality.

It adds that some parts of society are pursuing unfair and short term economic gain at a cost to the long-term prosperity for everyone.

Working with the Federation of Small Businesses, Water UK, the Wildlife Trusts, business and environmental stakeholders, academics and professional bodies, its Broadway Initiative has developed a Blueprint to advice ministers what an effective Environment Act needs to include.

Work in progress

In the interim, in December 2018, Defra published two key documents in tandem. In one, Mr Gove explained his vision for natural capital to remain as “one of the UK’s most valuable assets”; with a “pioneering” new green governance system to improve air quality, restore and enhance nature, improve waste management and resource efficiency and similarly improve surface water, ground water and wastewater management.

The other was a policy paper partial draft of clauses for a new Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill that will eventually set the framework for a new Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) watchdog for England and put the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan on a statutory footing with a very pro-environmental agenda.

The draft clauses include environmental principles such the ‘polluter pays’ and public participation in decision-making. The bill also proposes a legal requirement for a government plan to improve the environment which is updated at least every five years, with annual progress reports to Parliament.

Dog with blunt teeth?

However, many organisations including IEMA feel that the proposals are “not world leading yet”, “EU-lite” and too weak to replace the powerful European Commission/European Court of Justice structure that currently enforces environmental governance in the UK.

A key flaw is seen in the transfer of all EU/ECJ powers to the shoulders of just one person – the Secretary of State for the Environment – whoever he or she will be in future. Without a ferocious watchdog, will future governments be tempted to dilute away bêtes noires – such as losing three times in a row in the High Court for failing to tackle poor air quality?

There is also concern over the implementation of new laws if future chancellors see regulation as an expensive economic drag. In question are the bill’s “principles and objectives” which could be legally binding, or simply designed to guide policy, the development of legal frameworks and fill in missing legislation.

Four decades of progress

Some 80% of UK environmental law has been developed in partnership with the EU since 1973. Most is already subject to UK court rulings and will remain as part of UK law under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.

In the EU, environmental protection pervades all policies and laws. The ECJ adds interpretation and precedents to strengthen implementation and enforcement. The new draft bill, say Ministers, should simply “have regard to” principles and objectives set out in a policy statement created by the environment secretary – and this is not directed at regulators, agencies, the courts or third-parties.

Interestingly, EU chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, insists on a “non-regression” clause in any future trade deal to maintain high standards; July 2018’s Brexit White Paper promised “no regression” from existing EU regulations in air quality, water pollution and waste management.

IEMA concerns

IEMA also questions the proposed OEP’s independence because it does not meet its ‘independence tests’ and resourcing and appointments will be made by the secretary of state.

Martin Baxter has explained that while the proposals contain some promising provisions, “Lots more needs to be done to bring the draft bill up to the level of ambition needed for a comprehensive environmental governance framework that will deliver the future we want.”

IEMA fears the bill has a number of “escape clauses”; it says OEP proposals must be judged on accountability, resourcing and appointments to determine its independence. The watchdog must report directly to parliament, which should allocate appropriate resources, not the Government.

It adds that key appointments – particularly the chair of the new body – need direct Parliamentary support to establish public confidence and trust from the start.

Broadway Initiative

The Broadway Initiative is very clear on what the final Bill should look like and has identified Nine Pillars of Governance it feels must be addressed in the Environment Act.

They include: objectives, targets, milestones and metrics; underlying principles; a process to produce plans at national level; maps and plans for the place-based (local community) environment; clear responsibilities for key actors; well-aligned incentives; effective enforcement; purpose-driven feedback loops; and independent oversight

Responsibility as the new default.

Specifically, IEMA wants to see a “paradigm shift” towards direct environmental responsibility in two potential areas. The first is an environmental duty of care for all organisations. The second is activity-specific “net gain” responsibilities for developers, utilities and others with influence over natural assets.

Duty of Care for the Environment could push society towards taking local environmental responsibility where businesses and people are best placed to resolve problems early at source, rather than relying on the Government to make rules at a distance.

‘Environmental net gain’ covers activities that can make a positive environmental impact. Just as the 25 Year Environment Plan puts new responsibilities on developers, the same could apply to others owning, managing or controlling land or resources, such as water and energy companies.

IEMA believes that this in time could create a self-generating positive force for a better environment. Organisations could adopt a net gain obligation in return for more flexibility about how they apply it.

Carbon wetlands

As mentioned earlier, the crucial carbon sink role of coastal wetlands has been highlighted by University of Wollongong in Australia where scientists have shown that they could be “awoken” by rising sea levels as glaciers and ice-sheets melt in a warming atmosphere.

However, as Patrick McGonigal of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Centre in Maryland, US, points out: “The important question is how many wetlands will remain wetlands and how humans manage the land adjacent to them.”

The RSPB’s Alex Pigott from Hesketh Out Marsh on the Ribble Estuary adds that muddy marshes may not be “chocolate box images of the countryside” but are “exciting dynamic habitats”.

25-year rain forecast

In March, the Environment Agency warned that despite extreme wet weather during the month, climate change and population growth mean that England will not have enough water to meet consumer demand within 25-years.

CEO Sir James Bevan told a London Waterwise Conference that England would reach the “jaws of death” – a carefully chosen phrase – of inadequate water supplies in 20 to 25 years. He added that he wants wasting water to be “as socially unacceptable as blowing smoke in the face of a baby” with people in England cutting their daily use from 140 litres to 40 litres by 2050.

Winter precipitation over Greenland is now falling not as snow, which thickens the ice, but as rain that melt it.

Sustainable dairies

Cows as ruminant are major methane-emitters. However, one dairy cooperative, Leeds-based Arla Foods, says it will make more than 2,000 UK dairy farms cow-to-supermarket carbon neutral by 2050.

The Vegan Society thinks this isn’t possible. Arla Foods admits its goal is “ambitious” and will require “radical changes” that include new technologies. However, as the EU’s largest farming cooperative, it wants to neutralise all CO2 produced by it 10,300 member dairy farms by mid-century.

With so much going on, it’s time for a green cuppa!

“Fit for Purpose” The Principles of Lean Production

Presentation slides for the Lunch & Learn workshop ‘Fit for Purpose’ The Principles of Lean Production held on 4th & 8th March 2019 in Blackpool & Accrington respectively.

Led by Graham Leather of Graham Leather Consulting & Coaching.

Fit for Purpose- The Principles of Lean Production Presentation

LUNCH & LEARN: ‘The Energy Equation’ Small Waste That Costs A Lot

They may not seem like much but small leaks can be big source of waste and be costing you money. Let us help you identify areas of waste and what you can do about it.

This free lunchtime workshop in Accrington will cover the following topics:

  • Energy use and conservation in your business
  • Examples of energy waste and escapes in Lancashire businesses
  • Assessing energy use, losses and waste
  • Innovative and low cost approaches to minimising losses, capturing and applying unused energy
  • Making energy work to improve your bottom line

The workshop will be led by Ged Heffernan, founder and Managing Director of Fern Innovations. Ged has a track record of achievements during more than 20 years of operations and programme management within corporates including: Rolls-Royce plc, BAE Systems, Renold Chain, Mercedes-Benz F1 and IndyCar. Building upon this led to engagement in technology based start-ups as founder, owner, CEO, Non-Executive Director and Consultant.

Fern Innovation is a consultancy providing support to start-up, SME and corporate businesses in developing and delivering new product introduction and growth programmes, with particular focus on Renewable Energy, Cleantech, Manufacturing and Energy.

The event will start at 12:00 with lunch and networking, with the session starting from 12:30. Following the session there will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions and for further networking over refreshments.

The Chamber Low Carbon team will be on hand to discuss the support and funding available through the Low Carbon programme.

This workshop is part of a regular Lunch & Learn series giving Lancashire businesses the knowledge and tools to go green. To keep up-to-date with further workshops subscribe to the Chamber Low Carbon newsletter.

Book your place:

19th March – Accrington

Benefits of Water Management Lancashire

LUNCH & LEARN: ‘Money Down the Drain’ The Benefits of Water Management

Are you pouring money down the drain?

Water management is often overlooked by the drive to reduce energy bills when saving water can save £thousands a year, sometimes with very short payback periods, and it reduces carbon emissions, too.

At this free workshop held in Blackpool We will discuss conducting water audits and also

  • The benefits of having robust water management plans
  • Government schemes that give you 100% tax relief for using the correct equipment
  • Private water supply management and staying on good terms with the authorities
  • Avoiding 6 and 7 figure fines by controlling Legionella risks, you’d be amazed how many businesses are dicing with death!

The session will be led by Ian Hughes of Oakstone Environmental Consulting.

Starting his professional life in the Royal Navy, Ian later worked in corporate Safety and Environment for Centrica (offshore gas) before going self employed in 2000. He undertook a 4 year full time Master’s degree in Natural Sciences as a mature student graduating from Lancaster University in 2017. Since then he has completed diplomas in Environmental Management, Water Conservation and Management and Legionella Risk Management working as a freelance consultant in his own business Oakstone Environmental Consulting Ltd. Although specialising in water management predominantly, Ian also undertakes all aspects of environmental sustainability work.

The event will start at 12:00 with lunch and networking, with the session starting from 12:30. Following the session there will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions and for further networking over refreshments.

The Chamber Low Carbon team will be on hand to discuss the support and funding available through the Low Carbon programme.

This workshop is part of a regular Lunch & Learn series giving Lancashire businesses the knowledge and tools to go green. To keep up-to-date with further workshops subscribe to the Chamber Low Carbon newsletter.

 

Book your place:

4th April – Blackpool

Freen Clean Energy Low Carbon Conference Preston

Free Conference on Planning for Clean Energy and a Low Carbon Economy

Chamber Low Carbon would like to let you know about a upcoming Free conference on Planning for Clean Energy and a Low Carbon Economy being held in Preston on the 15th March 2019.

Bringing together business, local government and community groups you will hear about the differing roles they each play to accelerate the clean energy and low carbon economy transition in Lancashire, the North West and the rest of the UK.

The purpose of the day is about understanding how these varied stakeholders can maximise collaboration and positive outcomes while working together throughout transition.

The conference is running two separate sessions: morning and afternoon. Attendees may register for an individual session or register for the full day.

You can find out more and register to attend the conference by Clicking Here

The sun – friend or foe?

While falling solar energy prices are good news, living in history’s warmest decade is not. However, using low-cost, low-carbon power beamed straight to us from our local star, we can build a cooler, cleaner world with the Sun’s “dirty” old fossil-fuels left safely in the ground.

 

BP predicts renewables as the world’s main 2040 power source

Renewable energy is about to change every UK workplace and home, revolutionising global energy as we currently know it, according to the London-based multinational energy giant, BP.

This may sound like a ground-breaking admission from one of the world’s seven oil and gas “supermajors”. However, with the caveat that oil will still be with us for a long time to come, BP adds that renewables will be Earth’s main power source within two decades, gaining ground faster than any fuel in history.

In fact, it predicts that “fuels” like wind and solar energy will account for circa 30% of global electricity supplies by 2040, and up to 50% in Europe. Today, they represent just 10%.

But BP goes further. If we switch to a low carbon economy even faster, the timeframe could fall from 2040 to 2035, a historic shift that would be “literally off the charts”, it adds. This calls for strategic governmental changes but also “many small points of light”.

Green opportunity for thousands of SMEs

The Low Carbon Programme encourages North West companies to maximise their “green” power opportunities. By good luck, this coincides with important developments for both large- and small-scale solar energy users. Offshore wind energy cost also continues to fall.

However, before outlining how the Programme team helps to pinpoint commercial solutions for individual companies, several other recent headlines underline why low-carbon energy is crucially important in the global climate change battle.

Urgent challenges ahead

Later, we look at falling solar energy costs, and the Met Office’s news that we are in the hottest decade since 1850. Meanwhile, there have been several worrying and some more positive developments.

In late February, the Government’s environmental advisor, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), warned that new homes could be barred from the national gas grid by 2025 if the UK is to meet its legally-binding 2050 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target of 80%.

This is an obvious open goal for sustainable energy, including heat pumps which draw hidden heat from the ground, local lakes, and even the sea.

Earlier in February, the Institute for Policy Research (IPPR) think-tank also warned that critical human impacts could destabilise society and the global economy through a “complex, dynamic” and high-speed combination of climate change, species loss, topsoil erosion, forest felling and acidifying oceans.

But positive carbon news too

On the plus side, the UK’s 2017 GHG footprint was 2.7% lower than in 2016 – and 42.1% lower than in 1990 – largely due to a 27% fall in coal-fired power station use. This also sounds like a great renewables replacement opportunity! But the CCC says much more carbon-cutting is still needed. Ministers are on track for short-term goals but short of policies to achieve long-term targets.

If doubts about the next generation of complex, expensive nuclear power stations are added, the case for renewables in the UK’s future sustainable energy mix becomes even stronger.

North West businesses, and millions of similar companies around the world, can and are beginning to make a substantial difference that also has clear bottom-line advantages.

Low Caron Programme hands-on 2019 spring help

The Low Carbon Programme team is able to help in several ways.

We introduce companies to green energy suppliers. Where processes and equipment need replacing, upgrading or updating – for example, inefficient water heating boilers – we can also help to identify solar or small wind-turbine options and put you in touch with the best local suppliers.

In parallel, we are building up local and regional sustainable energy supply chains. These include equipment manufacturers, installation and maintenance experts, plus support services such as companies able to confirm whether an existing roof-structure has the strength to carry extra loads, plumbers, firms specialising in installing buried connection cables, and many more.

Please get in touch if you would like our help – or think you can help in your particular area. We’d be pleased to hear from you.

Joint energy and environmental performance review

Our starting point with companies is a joint energy and environmental performance review. This identifies where technology can help to minimise your carbon footprint, often by using energy more efficiently, as with low-carbon LED lighting.

Each Practical Action Plan is tailored to specific company circumstances and maximising the low-carbon and commercial advantages. For example, some solar installation providers will “rent SME roof space”, providing renewable energy on-site at low prices but selling any excess to the grid.

Why subsidy-free wind and solar is important

The National Grid estimates the UK could be on track for a solar capacity of 18GW by 2030; installed capacity at end-2017 was 12.8 GW. In comparison, by mid-December 2018, UK installed wind energy capacity was calculated as 12.3GW onshore and 7.9GW offshore, making us the world’s fourth largest wind power generator. China is the world’s largest solar power installer with 52GW in 2017.

With limited Government funding, any form of low-carbon energy must stand firmly on its own commercial feet. After a patchy period of boom and bust “incubation” support from central government, both offshore wind and solar energy are now competitive in mature markets.

In fact, with rapidly falling costs, the two are said to be in a close race to become the UK’s cheapest renewable energy resource, with prices more attractive than anything oil, gas or coal can offer.

Wind’s early lead

The Financial Times reported in September 2017 that since 2012 offshore wind energy costs had fallen by nearly a third to an average of £97/MWh – four years ahead of schedule – largely due to advances in technology, economics of scale, fast supply chain development and improved finance.

Offshore wind then gained a state-guaranteed “strike price” for its output under for the Contract for Difference (CfD) scheme in Government energy auctions, overtaking nuclear. Solar energy is on a similar cost-reduction path but not currently eligible for CfD. Many people want this to change.

A relaxation of planning constraints could put offshore wind in pole position within a decade as new ultra-large 8MW turbines currently being deployed giving way to larger 10MW and 12MW models.

Solar posed to move ahead in 2019

However, solar energy costs are predicted to take an early 2019 lead. Two further factors are important for solar parks and individual installations designed to be profitable for 30 to 40 years.

China is releasing a slew of cheap solar panels on to world markets after cutting its own huge solar programme. This follows a September 2018 end to EU price tariffs introduced in 2013 to protect the European market from low-cost Chinese solar imports.

But there is also good news for small solar array operators too. The Government’s Feed-in Tariff (FiT) for solar – which pays for spare power sold to the national grid – ends in April 2019 but will be replaced by the new “smart export guarantee (SEG)” that encourages low-carbon energy use.

Evidence of falling solar energy prices

The Solar Trade Association’s (STA) updated assessment of the solar levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) – defined as the cost of electricity over a project’s lifetime – concludes that solar is on track to become the UK’s cheapest form of energy.

STA estimates that solar LCOE during 2019 will be £50/MWh – £60/MWh, far lower than the £80/MWh forecast in 2014 and competitive against natural gas and onshore wind. STA says this could fall to £40/MWh by 2030, and through technology, auctions, networks access and a climate change levy exemption, it wants to see a level playing field with other energy sources.

Even more good renewable news

Renewables have already been incredibly good for the UK. A Carbon Brief analysis shows that while the UK’s total carbon footprint has fallen by 38% since 1990, it could have doubled without the renewable energy revolution.

In 1990, coal represented 67% of the UK’s energy mix but fell to 5% in 2017. Government figures suggest that the UK’s total carbon footprint in 1990 stood at 600m tonnes of CO2 (MtCO2) but fell to 367MtCO2 in 2017. However, the second-largest contributor (31%) was lower industrial and residential sector energy use as people turned actively to LED lighting, electric heating and other energy-efficiency measures.

Green shots of optimism

Looking on the bright side, NASA satellite data also shows that two of the world’s biggest carbon polluters, China and India, are now adding more than 2 million sq. miles of extra leaf area every year – a 5% increase on the early 2000s.

China’s contribution comes from forest conservation and expansion programmes designed to counter soil erosion, air pollution and climate change. India is making a difference through intensive food crop cultivation with fertilisers and irrigation.

But researchers warn that the positive effects will be offset by rising temperatures, adding that world atmospheric CO2 could reach record levels this year due to heating in the tropical Pacific which is expected to reduce carbon dioxide uptake in plants.

Met Office warning

Talking of rising temperatures, Met Office scientists predict that temperatures in each of the next five years up to 2024 are likely to be 1oC or more above pre-industrial levels.

They also think that the next five years could also see an average annual global temperature rise greater than 1.5oC.

It’s time for the many points of low-carbon light to come together.

‘Rubber Duck & the Green Convoy’ Fleet Fuel Efficiency Presentation

Presentation slides for the Lunch and Learn workshop ‘Rubber Duck & the Green Convoy’ Fleet Fuel Efficiency held on 4th February 2019.  Led by Paul Jorgensen of Strategic Analytics Team.

Fleet Fuel Efficiency Presentation – Strategic Analytics Team

The Guardian makes potato starch news!

Walkers decision to recycle its crisp bags, and Morrison’s to offer shoppers paper rather than plastic carrier bags, have also made news headlines. The Government wants its new Resources and Waste Strategy to make all businesses more sustainable. But it wants to hear your views first.

Adding your two-pennyworth to major national changes

When a national newspaper wraps its weekend supplements in a compostable potato starch material meant for the compost heap, or food waste bin, rather than landfill site, it is almost guaranteed news column inches.

So too is a leading food manufacturer’s decision to tackle the complex problem of recycling multi-material crisp bags with a “difficult but not impossible to treat” metallised content, albeit after considerable public pressure.

On yet another potato theme, this time at the perishable end of the retail sector, Morrisons is running a trial to replace single-use plastic shopping bags in its stores with a recyclable paper option.

All change

The underlying message for ordinary manufacturing, trading and service companies is that any incremental improvements they can make for better waste management are not “small-potatoes”.

In fact, the opposite is true. SMEs are in pole position when it comes to helping their customers, supply chains – and the whole UK waste industry which now faces tumultuous change.

As an added bonus, more sustainable waste management also puts you in the virtuous league alongside a growing list of major brands – M&S, Sainsbury’s, Ben & Jerry, McDonalds, plus Unilever, Philips, Ikea, Samsung and many more. Not all solutions involve potatoes!

However, there is another good reason for acting sooner rather than later. The Government’s Resources and Waste Strategy for England (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/765914/resources-waste-strategy-dec-2018.pdf) will make minimising waste and maximising resource efficiency compulsory through a series of carefully-detailed key milestones leading up to 2050. By the mid-century point, all avoidable waste – and plastic waste – must be eliminated.

A 2019 priority will be setting up regular household collections to tackle food waste. There will also be a strong emphasis on taking plastics out of the environment as microbeads ingested by marine life enter the human food chain.

Waste of crime

In parallel, there will be a huge push to end waste crime – which many firms don’t realise they are committing. Tougher regulations on the transport, management and description of waste will be backed by intelligence sharing to end criminal activity, including the misuse of waste exemptions.

There will also be digital waste movement tracking, a Joint Unit for Waste Crime, much tougher criminal penalties, plus a lot of publicity work. In 2018, the Environment Agency closed more than 800 illegal sites and achieved 93 successful prosecutions – beware the EA in 2019!

A brand-new resource (formerly known as waste)

When Dame Ellen MacArthur sailed around the world in a small boat, she noted that: “What you have is all you have”. On the crowded boat called Planet Earth, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Government and Low Carbon Programme see the Circular Economy as the best sustainable solution.

Rather than throw old, damaged bodies away, nature reuses them as nutrient for future generations in an endless cycle. We need to do the same. Waste isn’t a problem; losing or mis-using it is.

The Chamber’s Circular Economy Club starts in April to demonstrate and share examples of good practice and collaboration. Despite recent snow and ice, April isn’t far off. Please book a free place as soon as possible (https://www.chamberlowcarbon.co.uk/contact/).

Making your voice heard

Before looking at Defra’s strategy blueprint (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/resources-and-waste-strategy-for-england/resources-and-waste-strategy-at-a-glance), two key points stand out.

The first is that when officials talks about extensive consultations, they want to understand the experiences, hopes and worries of ordinary companies before finalising details.

This is a real opportunity to influence the eventual outcome. The Chamber of Commerce monitors consultations routinely. If you would like to join a consultation but would like guidance, please contact our Low Carbon team in the first instance.

The other point is that if we look at some of the interim routes currently being used to deal with waste, it becomes clear that a huge innovative change is needed if the UK is going to meet its wider global and environmental goals. This is genuinely unexplored territory.

As an example, a significant tonnage of the UK’s waste is currently shipped to Denmark, Germany and Sweden as district heating system fuel. Incineration itself is unsustainable. But potential post-Brexit border friction emphasises the urgent need for a fundamental review of how we deal with our waste.

Resources and Waste Strategy

The strategy – supported by additional legislation if necessary – is designed to end dependency on landfill sites that produce greenhouse gases, improve poor air quality, clean up rivers and stop single-use plastics entering the oceans.

On a high level, it aims to “preserve our stock of material resources by minimising waste” by turning an “inefficient ‘linear’ economic model of “take, make, use, throw” into a circular economy that keeps “resources in use for as long as possible to extract the maximum value” and “give old materials a new lease of life”.

The pathway for a national UK circular economy was outlined last year in the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/25-year-environment-plan).

Strategy specifics

One of the strategy’s main goals is to make commercial companies fully responsible for the full costs of waste recycling and disposal under the “polluter pays” principle. There will also be a new tax on any plastic packaging that has includes less than a 30% content of recycled plastics. Deposit-return schemes will also be introduced for bottles, cans and plastic containers.

For the first time ever, businesses will also have a binding target to recycle 65% of any waste created by their goods and services. This is in addition to glass and timber recycling.

Minimum eco-design requirements will also be set to encourage more resource-efficient products. A Chemicals Strategy will help to break down barriers that stop chemicals being reused and recycled sustainably.

Does this seem unfair? Government evidence suggests that some 80% of the environmental damage caused when products become waste can be avoided by better design and manufacture. That puts companies firmly in the driving seat.

The new model also wants knowledge to be shared through “resource efficiency clusters”. This will be another Low Carbon Programme priority, whether clusters are regional or specialist-sector based.

Consumer help

People also need more help with their buying decisions. Ipsos MORI research finds that a majority of consumers want businesses to help them reduce their waste. Circa 80% preferred money-back incentives, plus spaces in shops for returning used packaging and clothing. Loyalty points are popular. There is also a trend towards “hiring not buying”.

The average life span of many products is lower now than 20 years ago. Repair, reuse and remanufacturing are three tools that will be used to reverse this trend. Consumers will be given more product information. Certain plastics will be banned when a good alternative is available.

Helping householders and councils

In addition to new food waste collections, households and municipal waste collection authorities must also raise their recycling rates. Household recycling levels in England have risen by circa 11% since 2000/1, but plateaued since 2013.

The Government wants to improve all dry recyclable material waste collection services, raise Energy from Waste (EfW) plant efficiency, publish more information on using secondary materials and strengthen the waste hierarchy where hazardous waste is involved.

How will this be funded?

Industry will pay through Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). How will this work? Firms will face higher fees if their products are harder to reuse, repair or recycle – cars, electrical goods, batteries, textiles, fishing gear, tyres, construction & demolition materials, mattresses, furniture and carpets.

Defra estimates that EPR from packaging will generate an annual revenue stream of between £500 million and £1 billion which will help fund recycling and disposal.

Common-sense

If all this sounds onerous, there are sound reasons for jumping before being pushed.

When change is inevitable, moving ahead of the curve with innovative products and solutions that the new market needs can give you an edge. Particularly if financial incentives are available. Resisting change until the bitter end could mean short-term gains but long-term loses.

There is also moral and reputational value in helping to solve bad environmental problems.

Food, zips and light bulbs

Firms are creating solutions at different levels in different ways.

Unilever, Procter & Gamble (P&G) and PepsiCo are among the 24 corporate co-founders of a new ‘waste-free’ retail platform called Loop which businesses can use to give their customers branded product refills while keeping ownership of their own reusable packaging.

As an international design and manufacturing example, Samsung is phasing out all virgin plastic components from its consumer-facing packaging during the first half of 2019. Phone, tablet and smartwatch packaging trays will now be made from pulp-based alternatives.

On a different track, Dutch multinational technology company, Philips, is taking the “hire rather than buy” idea to modern long-life light bulbs. Now Ikea is to let customers lease rather than buy furniture in an environmentally-friendly project. The Swedish company’s CEO explained that when pieces of furniture are handed back at the end of a lease, “… instead of throwing those away, we refurbish them a little and we could sell them, prolonging the lifecycle of the product”.

Meanwhile, as a practical example of a small but significant service change that people value, the Californian outdoor clothing company, Patagonia, now offers to repair its customers’ damaged zips.

The Guardian, Walkers and Morrisons

Interestingly, all three companies have made deliberate decisions to accept higher waste management costs for sustainable reasons that an increasing number of customers and the public value.

The Guardian ditched polythene covers in favour of compostable packaging after listening to its readers’ feedback. Walkers says its packets are technically recyclable and the issue has been that they were not separated or collected for recycling.

Morrisons’ reusable paper bag will cost 20p. The firm will also trial raising the cost of its reusable plastic carrier bag from 10p to 15p to further cut down on single-use plastics. Plastic bag demand has already fallen by more than 85% since charges were first introduced, it says.

Every little helps!

LUNCH & LEARN: “Fit for Purpose” The Principles of LEAN Production

Reduce your waste and get LEAN!

These workshops being held in both Blackpool and Accrington will give attendees a broad understanding of LEAN fundamentals through an experiential and entertaining learning event.
LEAN principles are:-
1. Understand what is important and valued by the customer
2. Understand the current process
3. Identify and remove unnecessary wastes from the process
4. Ensure the process is driven by customer demand
5. Continuously identify opportunities for further improvement

A Lean process should deliver the product or service to the customer (however defined) as quickly as possible where waste, errors and re-work have been removed, as far as practicable.

This event will focus on one of the many potential wastes, movement.

The workshop will be presented by Graham Leather, a highly experienced business professional with operational experience across manufacturing line management, sales, and business development and with almost 20 years’ experience of implementing business improvement/ change management programmes across a broad range of industries, from food and health to metal forging and the service sector.
Graham has worked within many cultures and countries including India, UAE, Europe, USA, and the Far East.
Graham has a first degree in minerals engineering from the University of Birmingham and an MBA from the Open University.

The event will start at 12:00 with lunch and networking, with the session starting from 12:30. Following the session there will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions and for further networking over refreshments.

The Chamber Low Carbon team will be on hand to discuss the support and funding available through the Low Carbon programme.

This workshop is part of a regular Lunch & Learn series giving Lancashire businesses the knowledge and tools to go green. To keep up-to-date with further workshops subscribe to the Chamber Low Carbon newsletter.

Book your place:

4th March – Blackpool

8th March – Accrington