Meet the Ecosurety Exploration Fund panel – interview with Libby Peake

Launched just over a month ago, the Ecosurety Exploration Fund has been created to provide vital funding for projects tackling the negative effects of packaging, batteries and e-waste on the environment.

The fund, which has ring-fenced £1million over the next three years, will provide successful applicants with up to £150k of finance. Deadline for applications is 10 March 2020.

In order to ensure the fairest selection process possible, Ecosurety has pulled together a panel of independent judges who will work together to identify projects that can tackle some of the most pressing environmental issues around packaging, batteries and e-waste through innovation or research.

In our series of interviews, interested applicants can discover what the judges’ key demands will be - and what issues they think need to be prioritised in order to tackle the raft of challenges around waste and help the UK transition towards a more circular economy. So far we have published interviews with Mike Barry and Peter Maddox - here we bring you our third interview with Libby Peake.


Libby Peake - Senior Policy Advisor at Green Alliance

Libby joined Green Alliance in 2017 as Senior Policy Advisor, an independent and UK leading think tank and charity focused on ambitious leadership for the environment. Green Alliance always maintains a non-partisan, pluralist stance, and works across all sectors, in partnership with companies and NGOs and with all the main political parties, to inspire and achieve policy change for a better environment.

Libby previously spent nearly ten years as an editor at Resource Media, an environmental publishing and communications company aiming to lead discussions around sustainability and resource use. She edited the company’s flagship magazine, Resource, as well as overseeing the company’s daily news site. 

In the third of our panel interviews, Libby gives some insights into what inspires her, what she thinks a future circular economy should look like and what kind of projects she is hoping to see coming through the Ecosurety Exploration Fund.


How did you get to where you are today?

As with everyone I’ve ever spoken to in the sector – by accident! I had been vaguely planning on pursuing a career in academia, but decided on a bit of a whim to plump for publishing instead. As I had no experience in publishing, no one would take me, but I wound up with a three-month internship at Resource Media, a small environmental publisher with a focus on waste and resources.

It was an area I had a longstanding interest in, and I stayed for nearly 10 years in the end. I was amazed at how many fascinating resource related topics there were to learn about. When the chance came up to apply all that learning to policy thinking at Green Alliance, I jumped on it.

Name a person or project that has inspired you in your work and explain why?

Lois Gibbs. My first ever job as a teenager in America was going door to door on a campaign seeking to maintain legislation on toxic waste sites. In doing the job, I learned a lot about how polluter pays policies had come about because of campaigning from Gibbs and fellow residents in Love Canal, who stood up for themselves after reckless chemical pollution destroyed their local environment and seriously harmed their health. It made me realise how much can be achieved by a group of passionate individuals with right on their side.

What do you consider to be the biggest challenge facing the UK resources and waste sector at the moment?

There are many, but the thing that strikes me as requiring the most attention is developing policy around reduction, reuse and circularity more generally. There are, of course, longstanding problems with the UK’s recycling system, but we know a lot of the solutions that could be used there and there are examples of best practice around the world that we could copy.

But to really reduce the impact of material use, we need to be starting far earlier in the material cycle – designing products and systems to minimise the impacts of resources used. This requires a level of joined up policymaking involving everyone in society that has so far proved stubbornly elusive.

What solutions do you think need to be developed in the resources and waste economy? 

I’d like to see solutions that genuinely target reduction, the neglected first of the three Rs. That could include new delivery models for food and consumer goods to minimise the amount of resources needed. It could also include better design for electronics so that people don’t feel compelled to buy and throw away so many gadgets.

That could mean electronics are designed to last as long as people expect, to be repairable and upgradable so people can use the latest software without having to buy a whole new product, or to be disassembled at the end of life so that parts at least can be reused.

What role must brands and producers play in a transition to a more circular economy?

At Green Alliance, we believe that the future is green and those that are most likely to succeed in a net zero world will be those that embed sustainability throughout their business models. There can be frustration at the slow movement from government, but there are plenty of instances where businesses can get ahead and start embedding more resource efficiency into how they run.

This requires strategic thinking and might require a shift in how companies do business, but we expect that resource efficiency and circular activities are where a lot of the opportunities will lie for the future. A few years ago, we did some research with WRAP that showed there could be more than half a million jobs (more than 100,000 of them net jobs) in circular economy activities like recycling, repair, remanufacturing and servitisation.        

Describe what a resources and waste economy of the future looks like to you?

In my dream world, actors throughout the material cycle would be much more joined up, with those at the start of the process thinking about the whole lifecycle of the products and material they’re putting on the market, and working with the resource managers to maximise material values.

Rather than waiting until something becomes waste and then deciding what the best thing to do with it would be, circular thinking would be baked into the design and production process so that waste – and the question of what to do with it – would arise far less frequently.


Is the transition to a more circular resources and waste economy led by Government or by business?

The transition requires absolutely everyone to play their part. As a policy focused think tank, we tend to focus on government, which could set standards, regulations, targets, etc to level the playing field and make sure that businesses are all heading in the same direction. But whether or not government acts, businesses can often take the lead, and, by developing best practice, show what can be achieved. That could perhaps even give the government confidence to be braver.

Crucially, though, I don’t want to leave the general public out, either. It’s important to take them with us and ensure that they’re using products and systems as intended. With resource efficiency and energy efficiency, it’s not enough to know what policies are needed, we also need to know what policies and business models are acceptable to the public – and how to address concerns around potentially transformational ideas that aren’t yet popular.       


What sort of projects would you like to see coming through the Ecosurety Exploration Fund?

Inspiring ideas that will really reduce the amounts of resources used and waste generated.


What do you think will be the main challenges when selecting the winning projects?

I’m hoping that it will be narrowing down a field of brilliant ideas that all deserve funding!

What would be your one piece of advice to Ecosurety Exploration Fund applicants?

Don’t just tinker around the edges of the current system – think big.


About the Ecosurety Exploration Fund

Exploration Fund


Over three years the Ecosurety Exploration Fund will invest £1million in projects that can reduce the environmental impact of packaging, batteries or WEEE through innovation or research in the UK. We are looking to support ideas up to £150,000 that will go on to make a bigger impact beyond the initially funded project - especially those that may ordinarily struggle to get off the ground.

Applications to the Ecosurety Exploration Fund can be made via the Ecosurety website by clicking here, where full details on eligibility and how to apply can be found.

The deadline for submissions is 11.59pm, 10 March 2020. Judging will take place on 21 April 2020 and the winners will be announced at a special event in May 2020.

If you have any questions regarding the Ecosurety Exploration Fund, please contact us by emailing explorationfund@ecosurety.com or by calling 0333 4330 370

Ben Luger

Marketing projects specialist

Ben joined the team at the beginning of 2015 and helps drive marketing communications and projects for Ecosurety, including project managing the launch of the Ecosurety Exploration Fund and website content development.

Written by Ben Luger Published 22/01/2020 Topics Ecosurety
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