Collaboration key to the circular economy, argues DS Smith at Westminster Forum

Last week (18 January 2018), DS Smith joined thought leaders from across the UK to discuss priorities for future waste and recycling policy. Chaired by MPs and Environmental Audit Committee Members John McNally and Colin Clark, the Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum Keynote Seminar deliberated key strategies to drive the circular economy.

Peter Clayson, General Manager for Business Development and External Affairs at DS Smith, presented the company’s circular business model – closed-loop recycling for packaging solutions – and his insight into structured policy, incentives, and a holistic approach to packaging recovery note (PRN) reform. Representing one of Europe’s leading paper and packaging manufacturers, he was also invited to join a Q&A panel debate regarding the importance of supply chain collaboration, and the role that quality recycling has to play in achieving circular economy aspirations.

Alongside policy context, key discussion topics included reducing waste at a local level, collection consistency, engagement strategies, and innovation for the future. Dr Marcus Gover, CEO of WRAP, opened the session with a presentation on key issues and next steps, focussing his comments on action to reduce food waste and one-way plastics. Dr Lee Davies, DEFRA Head of Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy Strategy, spoke about policy context resulting from the release of its 25-Year Environment Plan.

Clayson commented: “As a fast-paced industry, renowned for driving creativity, innovation, and behavioural change, bringing together thought leaders and influential decision-makers proved invaluable to exploring long-term waste and recycling policy thinking to drive the circular economy in the UK.

“The discussion and questions included the recent launche of DEFRA’s 25-year Environment Plan, possible ‘pay as you throw’ trials, and incineration overcapacity, in addition to the need for long-term, structured policy to counterbalance ‘knee-jerk’ reactions to tackle resource sustainability. DS Smith, as an example of a company delivering a circular economy business model in the UK paper and packaging industry, is well-positioned to offer insight on how we can achieve national circular economy aspirations. From packaging design to production and recycling, DS Smith’s closed-loop model helps to prevent waste, and ensures that materials that can be recycled are actually recycled.

Peter Clayson
It was also interesting to debate how the waste hierarchy will play a growing role in the circular economy. While we have made good progress in establishing recycling systems, more effort and innovation are required to position the value of resources higher up the waste hierarchy – for example, how do we work to eliminate waste in the first place, and concentrate innovation around creating more easily reusable products and packaging? — Peter Clayson - General Manager for Business Development and External Affairs


Reflecting on the event, Mr Clayson added: “There seemed to be a lot of interest in pay-as-you-throw models during the discussions at the seminar, which perhaps suggests that it’s time for policymakers to explore this idea and the impact it could have on national circular economy aspirations.”