From Wolverhampton to London: The shift towards a circular economy

Posted by Derek Mason

7th May 2024

Picture credit: Wokandapix on Pixabay

A new hub for construction waste is a shining example of what’s needed to make a much-needed shift towards a circular economy.

The Reuse Hub is set to open this summer in Wolverhampton and will sell surplus construction waste – including bricks, tiles and flooring – to members of the public. In the first year of operation, it’s expected that around 600 tonnes of material will be diverted away from landfill. Or as the PR people put it – the weight of 20 West Midland Metro trams.

Given that the construction industry is responsible for generating 62% of the UK’s waste, and 32% of it is being sent to landfill (although 87% of that is diverted), every project to improve the situation is a positive.

This new initiative will be run by The Rebuild Site CIC and the All Saints Action Network (ASAN) charity, with the help of a £100,000 investment from the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair, told the press that, “Growing the circular economy is one of the most effective actions that we can take to reduce waste, protect the environment and achieve our net zero ambitions.”

Although this project is outside the capital, it has echoes of Mace’s recent call for London to move to circular construction. In their report late last year, they called for London – the City of London in particular – to incentivise and embed circularity across the building lifecycle.

Interestingly, their report “Closing the circle” noted that 90.2% of demolition and construction waste in the capital is recovered either for reuse or recycling, but much of it is used in other sectors or overseas. The result of this is that our construction industry is using more virgin material than this recycling rate implies.

One of Mace’s suggestions is that we develop physical and virtual ‘circularity material banks’ to allow smaller companies to take advantage of materials produced elsewhere in the industry. This goes a step further than what is proposed by Wolverhampton’s Reuse Hub and would keep resources within the construction sector. However, it would require a continued cultural shift.

Other suggestions from the Mace report include introducing ‘materials passports’ that track the source of materials within the supply chain, and creating a circularity accreditation scheme so that all parties involved in the industry can show their commitment to circularity.

Their vision for making London “the circularity capital of the world” is inspiring. As ever, I believe we’ll need real political will alongside specific legislation and investment to make this happen. What do you think? How quickly could London become the planet’s circularity capital and what will it take to get there?

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