The value of waste makes qualifications even more valuable

07 April 2014

According to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), a circular economy is: ‘An alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose), in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life’.

It goes on to state that as well as creating new opportunities for growth, a more circular economy will:

  • Reduce waste
  • Drive greater resource productivity
  • Deliver a more competitive UK economy
  • Position the UK to better address emerging resource security/scarcity issues in the future
  • Help reduce the environmental impacts of our production and consumption, in both the UK and abroad

This phrase, which is now an accepted part of the business vocabulary, is transforming itself from mere theory to fact as companies rush to develop new services and products to enable the circular economy to become a reality. The sector even has its own dedicated event in the shape of Resource, ‘the first major conference and exhibition for organisations looking to develop strong resource strategy and resilient resource security’, which took place at ExCel, London recently.

The economic value of diverting waste materials away from landfill has been recognised by the government as an important approach for improving environmental and economic outcomes (Energy and Utility Skills, 2013). Valuable waste materials include: paper, food, aluminium, rare earth metals, glass, plastics, wood and textiles.


The increasing importance of contributing to the circular economy can’t fail to have an impact on the cleaning industry. Rubbish collection and disposal, for example, is a task that is included in many cleaning contracts and, as the circular economy gains further momentum, cleaning operatives may have a significant role to play in identifying and sorting different types of ‘waste’ at source, for recycling or reuse. This not only helps to divert waste from landfill sites, it also creates a value – monetary and otherwise – for materials that were previously discarded without a second thought.

Increasing the knowledge and skills needed to ensure that the UK’s circular economy thrives is therefore crucial, and managers working within the converging industries of cleaning, FM and waste management, need to ensure that their employees, and themselves, are qualified to take this forward.

Written by Chris James, CEO of WAMITAB