BEIS industry workshop - mapping the path to a 2050 circular economy

The objective for the workshop was to provide input for government strategies, focusing on the most energy intensive industries. The result will be seen in a green paper published at the Autumn statement, followed by a white paper at next year’s budget. Our members often ask us what happens at these events, so here is our report from the day!

In attendance were representatives from eight of the most energy intensive industries (cement, ceramics, chemicals, food/drink, glass, iron/steel, oil refining and pulp/paper), environmental experts, academics and government representatives, all welcomed by Charlies Lewis, Head of Industrial Decarbonisation and Energy Efficiency, at BEIS.

BEIS insight

Niall Mackenzie, Director for Infrastructure & Materials at BEIS, explained the process that the government has embarked upon in the creation of the industry road maps.

He set out the clear position that the UK needs to increase its global competitiveness and that the government would measure success of the road maps in terms of economic growth and increased productivity in these industries.

He explained that an anticipated dividend of Brexit is that the UK will be able to regulate better, by keeping the intent of much of the EU legislation without the current regulatory complexity.

Defra insight

Unfortunately, no representative from Defra was available, but Arjan Geveke, Assistant Director for Energy Policy at BEIS stepped in to deliver their input.

It was clear that the Circular Economy package being formulated in the EU was high on their agenda and that the uncertainty of Brexit is a large consideration. There was the impression from the material that voluntary arrangement, rather than strict rules, could be possible post EU membership. 

However, Defra saw specific sectors that require focus including waste management, fertilisers, plastics and electronics. They mentioned the need to move toward a Green Public Procurement model, ensuring that the government is leading the way, and the potential for the creation of a “green financing platform” to make access to funding easier.

Academic insight

John Barrett, Director of CIE-MAP (Centre for Industrial Energy, Materials and Products) delivered a thought-provoking presentation on the magnitude of change required if the UK is to meet the COP21 greenhouse gas emissions targets.

The feeling in academia is that there is no silver bullet, and the data points to the need for urgent and drastic change. Topically, with Heathrow currently on the agenda, John backed the possibility that aviation could consume around half of the UKs carbon budget by 2050, raising questions about how the carbon budget should be equally allocated between sectors.

Round table discussion

Facilitated by ECOFYS, representatives then facilitated thought provoking discussions around five key questions:

  1. How lifecycle thinking in energy intensive industries can be accelerated and embedded
  2. How products can be designed to be more durable and recyclable
  3. How management can structure businesses to realise energy and material efficiency
  4. How these industries can work with government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an increasingly global supply chain
  5. How government can help these industries move up the value chain

My thoughts

During the feedback session, it was clear that producer responsibly has a key role to play if we are to move to a more circular economy. Increasing the extent to which organisations and individuals take responsibility for the products they play a part in creating, or consuming, is likely.

When looking at product design and lifecycles, it is not simply one sector that needs to be targeted. Way back in 2007 we already knew there were many players that have a part in making something as simple as a bag of crisps.

Ecosurety will continue to lobby for simple and effective legislation that helps UK business to sustainably transition into the new, lower greenhouse gas emitting, environmental landscape.


Robbie Staniforth

Innovation and Policy Director

Robbie is innovation and policy director at Ecosurety. Having spent years building an intimate understanding of the industry’s policies and politics, he uses this knowledge to help shape new legislation and oversees Ecosurety’s growing portfolio of cross-industry innovation projects including Podback and the Flexible Plastic Fund. He has worked closely with Defra during the most recent packaging consultations, outlining the impacts and required transitional arrangements of the UK’s new EPR system and is a member of the government’s Advisory Committee on Packaging (ACP). He is also a spokesperson for the company and regularly uses his influence to communicate the importance of environmental responsibility to external stakeholders.

Written by Robbie Staniforth Published 02/11/2016 Topics Sustainability

Useful links

Record-breaking volume of aluminium recycled in 2023

In 2023, 162,357 tonnes of aluminium packaging were recycled in the UK (68%), including more than four in five beverage cans (81%).


European Parliament introduce regulations to improve packaging sustainability

On 24 April, the EU’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) was approved, introducing new measures to make packaging more sustainable and reduce packaging waste within the EU. 


Provisional agreement reached on the EU’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation

A provisional agreement has been reached on the EU’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR).  


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