Late yesterday afternoon IEMA members had the pleasure of being joined by the Shadow Minister for Nature Recovery and the Domestic Environment, Alex Sobel MP, for an online roundtable discussion focused on the role that the circular economy can play in enhancing UK biodiversity. Here, Ben Goodwin, IEMA’s Head of Policy, recalls the key talking points.

The roundtable was set up to focus on three main areas, which are set out below and we heard a range of different perspectives put forward by stakeholders from sectors including manufacturing and engineering, through to retail and fashion.

  • The importance of embedding circular thinking into the policymaking process to deliver outcomes that enhance the natural environment
  • The challenges and opportunities of adopting circular approaches across all economic sectors
  • The contribution that the circular economy can make to achieving nature positive and other strategic objectives, including net zero emissions by 2050

Sobel used his opening remarks at the roundtable to talk about the huge garbage patches that have built up in the marine environment because of the inadequacy of waste and resource strategies in the UK and beyond. The issue of micro-plastics that are damaging aquatic life and entering human food chains described as particularly acute.

His view was that there must be more speed in embedding circular approaches into policy and industry and that current progress on developing and implementing extended user responsibility regulations is too slow.

IEMA members reflected on a range of different issues including the confusion that exists for businesses working across political boundaries in the UK on waste and circular economy issues. There was a plea for common delivery frameworks to abate the challenges that they face in trying to navigate often disparate approaches to waste and resources policy.

Other members reflected on the need for more effective policy to support the growth of repair and remanufacture i.e. moving the emphasis away from an economic model that is heavily production-based. This should apply to many premium goods such as mobile telephones and laptops for example.

Creating less can by extension reduce the amount of waste that ends up entering and damaging the natural environment. The roundtable follows a paper that IEMA published on developing a resource productivity target for England based on the principles of green growth, which can be found here.

There was still a sense as the discussions drew to a close that policy should be created in a way so as to drive early intervention on circularity, and the net zero agenda, with examples given on large infrastructure development and its legacy impact on the natural environment.

The discussion brings to a close our public affairs roundtable series until after the summer parliamentary recess. As a reminder, some of the recent highlights have included conversations with both The Rt Hon Chris Skidmore MP (author of the independent net zero review) and Kerry McCarthy MP (Shadow Minister for Climate Change) on net zero delivery.

In due course we will be publishing a series of policy asks drawn from the conversations that we have had through the roundtable series and from the policy development being undertaken by our policy and practice groups. These will be published in advance of the party conference season.

If you would like to know more about our public affairs work please get in touch at [email protected].

Photo of Ben goodwin
Ben Goodwin

Director of Policy and Public Affairs, IEMA, IEMA

Ben is Director of Policy and Public Affairs at IEMA. In this capacity he looks after the delivery of IEMAs core policy, practice and public affairs activities across a range of environmental and sustainability issues. Prior to joining the organisation Ben worked in several similar policy roles at organisations including the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Renewable Energy Association.


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