Last year saw a number of developments in the waste sector that suggest the potential for increasing job opportunities
The European Commission’s adoption of a circular economy package was one of the most significant developments in the waste sector in 2015 and could result in a raft of employment opportunities.
It covers a vast array of subjects including recycling targets, industrial sustainability, fertilisers, energy-from-waste, chemicals and product design.
Despite some reservations that the package has been watered down from its draft version which was scrapped in December 2014, many feel that the package is likely to create a surge in jobs.
Chris White, conservative MP and chair of All-Party Parliamentary Manufacturing Group (APMG), said the package made “important headway in terms of supporting local skills and jobs in the transition to a circular economy”.
A WRAP report published on 10 December revealed that the move to a circular economy could create more than 40,000 new low to mid-skilled jobs in London by 2030.
And across the whole of the UK, a report commissioned by environmental management firm Veolia in July found that a closed-loop society could boost the UK’s employment levels by 10% by 2025, creating 175,000 new jobs.
These findings also chime with a Green Alliance report from January, which found that 200,000 jobs could be created by 2030 if the UK continues on its current circular economy development rate.
Last year also saw recycling rates continue to flag across the UK.
This slowdown leaves the UK a long way off its 50% recycling target for 2020 set by the EU and critics argue this is due to a lack of funding from the government. If the UK is to meet EU targets and avoid fines, more support will be needed and this too has the potential to stimulate the jobs market.
In all, 2015 was a challenging year for recyclers, with the acquisition of the UK’s largest plastics recycler ECO Plastics by a German investment firm and the sale of Euro Closed Loop Recycling to a Dubai-based investment company.
This was an effect of a significant drop in the oil price, which has made recycled polymers less competitive compared with virgin ones.
In response to this in March, the government reiterated its commitment to support recycling in the UK and after holding “urgent meetings” with the sector, said there was evidence of positive signals for the industry.
In terms of collection, Scotland agreed a new household recycling charter in March last year, which will encourage councils to introduce separate household recycling for glass, paper and card, and metals and plastics. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) said this would “create jobs and deliver value for money services”.
WRAP has also begun examining ways of harmonising waste collection in other parts of the UK, which could be cheaper for local authorities and consumers.