7.0 A circular economy

New models of production and consumption

7.1 The City produces 290,000 tonnes of municipal waste a year of which 29% is recycled against a national target of 50%. Coventry’s Municipal Waste Strategy 2008-2020 fell well short of its target and will need to increase the participation rates from the public and businesses across the City. Coventry is one of the UK’s fastest growing Cities with 25,000 more homes which means it is likely to handle increasing levels of waste. It is likely that the Environment Act will set higher targets for Local Government on waste minimisation in the near future which will add to the challenges the Authority will have to face.

Actual and projected growth of households and municipal waste in Coventry

7.2 To get an idea of what the composition of our waste stream is like we can refer to the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) latest analysis for local authorities across England.

Local authority waste colection across England

7.3 The UK Government’s waste management hierarchy places emphasis on preventing waste and re-use wherever possible. The objective for the City is in fact to reduce all forms of waste wherever possible. The recent announcement of the introduction of a plastics packaging levy in April 2022 where a charge will be made on any company which uses plastics in packaging of their products that contains less than 30% recycled plastic in each component of the packaging or the containers that are used to ship the products whilst in transit should help to increase the amount of plastics recycled and encourage alternatives to current practice.

7.4 In fact, only a small percentage of the City’s waste goes to landfill (only 3% of household waste) the least attractive option in the management of waste. Most of that waste which cannot be recycled (approx. 60%) goes to heat recovery which along with unrecyclable waste from Solihull and other neighbouring authorities provides energy to the Heatline network heating an increasing number of buildings in the City Centre. The following pie chart illustrates the breakdown of the total household waste composition in England (Source of Data WRAP2017) this is collected by Local Authorities and private waste management companies:

Total waste composition pie chart

Whereas household waste is collected by or on behalf of local authorities.

Household waste composition pie chart

7.5 There are still some significant challenges which lie ahead notably increasing the levels of materials collected for recycling, there are considerable differences in the participation rates across the City and the amounts of recyclables collected. The City Council makes it easy for residents to participate as unlike many other local authorities residents are not required to separate out the recyclables as the Council does that for them all they have to do is place all recyclables in the one container.  There is a need for a more targeted communication with communities to increase not only the participation rates in recycling but also the quality materials separation for recyclables.

7.6 Areas where there are transient populations such as students, or people in short term private rented accommodation or who live in high rise apartments are the least likely to participate in recycling as they may not know on which days recyclables are collected or lack the facilities to separate their waste and store their recyclables. The Waste management and recycling Team have built up a knowledge over the years noting the tonnage figures from their daily routes and have tried a range of initiatives to encourage participation but with limited success. There is small team who promote education and awareness about recycling and its importance, and they target those key areas where participation rates are low.

Local authority waste colection across England

7.7 Another important area to target is the collection of food waste which at present can be included with garden waste, the percentage of food waste which is collected is low and there is a need to raise public awareness of the need to do this. Food waste is also a significant issue in the commercial sector e.g. restaurants and fast-food outlets etc. Evidence has shown that as people collect and separate out their food waste, they become increasingly aware of the levels of waste they produce, and they take steps to reduce their levels of waste by reducing unnecessary consumption and saving money.

7.8 The City Council working in Partnership with eight neighbouring authorities is building a Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) for handling recyclables at a scale where the quality of the separation and quality of the recyclable materials will be significantly improved which will also help to improve the income generated from the sale of higher volumes of higher quality separation of recyclables.

7.9 The City Council also aims to enhance its services to businesses in collecting commercial waste and separating out the recyclables. The following table details the total composition of waste collected from Businesses in England (Source: WRAP National municipal commercial waste composition 2017)

Total composition of waste collected from businesses in England

7.10 Similarly the City Council’s arms length waste management company which handles trade waste is to invest in the development of a Materials Reclamation Facility focused on commercial waste will dramatically help to improve the quality of separation and income from recyclables.Commercial waste composition

7.11 There is considerable potential for the arm’s length company to expand operations and dramatically improve the quantity and quality of separation of trade wastes operating to a scale which makes it nationally competitive.

7.12 Specific areas of operation such as metals recycling are particularly important to the automotive sector. The Warwickshire Manufacturing Group and the Circular Economy Pathway Group of the Climate Change Board are planning work with scrap metal companies in changing the ways in which they operate so that scrap metal does not need to be exported out of the country to process so that higher grade metals can be processed in the UK.

7.13 Supporting Businesses with energy & environmental management. The City Council is one of the few local authorities in the Country which works very closely with local businesses providing environmental and energy consultancy services and supporting businesses with environmental and energy management improving efficiencies and reducing waste all helping companies to reduce their bottom-line costs and increase their competitiveness and in some instances helping to safeguard jobs.

7.14 The Green Business Team has supported over 290 small to medium enterprises to date with over £3m of ERDF grant funding to help companies improve their efficiencies in energy and environmental management with a Carbon saving of over 13,000 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere and helped to create 60 jobs. The success of the Green Business Team far exceeded expectations and demonstrated the potential for businesses to not only improve their environmental performance but also save money and enhance their competitiveness.

Green Business Team’s record of achievement

7.15 On the subject of job creation the growing demand for energy efficient environmentally sustainable products is ever growing and will require new skills and expertise from the workforce. Centres of excellence in the West Midlands carrying out research into the innovative management of waste and the potential to develop symbiotic relationships between companies where one company’s waste becomes another’s raw material will prove key to the progress of the West Midlands as a driver of the Green Industrial Revolution.

7.16 A sustainability Business Network with over 1,200 members meet regularly to learn from each other and to develop their practical skills and share case studies. Each month the number of companies attending events increases and now podcasts are also now available to an increasing number of local businesses subscribing to the Network’s newsletters and podcasts.

7.17 Business Sustain provides environmental consultancy services to some 160 or so large prestigious organisations assisting them in obtaining ISO14001 Standard for Environmental management. There is scope for this and the Green Business Team to diversify their activity in the future to meet expressed needs from clients to support companies with their Health & safety as well as Energy Management compliance with standards such as ISO50001

7.18 The City will be working towards enhancing the benefits from its heat network whilst maximising the amount of recyclable materials taken out of the waste stream working with local businesses on reducing waste production and help for creating symbiotic relationships with other businesses which can use one companies waste material as an other companies raw material for manufacture of new goods and services.

7.19 The City Council working in partnership with the Universities and WMG have collectively made some significant strides in supporting businesses especially the SME’s with energy and environmental management and to date they have helped to create 60 jobs and reduce emissions by 13,559 tonnes Carbon per annum. The West Midlands Circular Economy Routemap recognises the very important role Coventry and Warwickshire has to play in promoting the decarbonisation of the manufacturing sector and the opportunities to be at the heart of the green industrial revolution such as the development of the proposed Gigafactory to provide the much needed batteries to accommodate the Nation’s transition to electric vehicles by 2030.

7.20 The City Council and its partners recently adopted the City Council’s Social Value Sustainability Framework which would help the Council and its partners to reduce the Scope 3 emissions in particular when the City Council and its partners in the Anchor Alliance are procuring goods and services. A series of criteria are currently being developed to help assess the goods and services being procured or to stimulate the inclusion of social value and sustainability criteria in major developments sent before planning.

7.21 Progress in supporting the circular economy provides a major opportunity for the development of new products and services. Coventry has always been a centre for innovation it holds the second largest number of patents per head of population in the country, it contributed to the WMCA’s ‘Kickstarting the West Midlands Circular Economy and as a City has tremendous potential as a catalyst for change. Coventry sees itself as showcasing new environmental technologies and demonstrating their use in the city as a shop window for the world. Working with local businesses and the WMG for example on the development of Very Light Rail or working with materials scientists in Universities to help the waste products from one company to be the raw materials for another.

7.22 There are a number of charities and social enterprises across the City which address the circular economy especially for those families on limited incomes who cannot afford to buy new goods and services such as furniture recycling, white goods repair, toy libraries, tool stores etc and also advisory services like Act On Energy and Energy Action which provide valuable services that help to minimise waste. Support for the development of social enterprises in this sector will not only help many into the labour market but also provide some valuable goods and services which address the needs of those on low incomes.

Waste minimisation

  • CE1 To develop a detailed understanding of the efficacy of waste collection and recycling participation rates to provide valuable insight to enable recycling rates to be increased.
  • CE2 To build Materials Recycling Facilities to improve the quality of materials separation for recyclables:
    • Household Waste;
    • Commercial Waste.
  • CE3 To carry out a number of behavioural change projects and initiatives at the Citywide and community level to encourage:
    • an increase in recycling participation rates;
    • greater support for re-use and repair.
  • CE4 To develop an online resource promoting re-use and repair with advice on how to extend the life of products combined with a media and comms strategy.
  • CE5 To develop and further enhance existing neighbourhood based and citywide re-use, hire and repair services across the City e.g The Coventry FabLab
  • CE6 To develop links and new products and services with Tom White Waste, the Green Team and Business Sustain.

Support and advice to businesses to minimise waste and maximise efficiency

  • CE7 To seek continued funding and opportunities for securing funding and income for the Green Business Team’s following the end of ERDF funding from the EU in July 2023.
  • CE8 To expand the Business Sustain Service as a consultancy with a concerted media and marketing strategy delivering a wider range of services as requested by the clients.
  • CE9 To refine the procurement guidance in relation to the Social Value and Sustainability criteria.

Support with the development of innovation and symbiosis for businesses

  • CE10 To work with materials scientists and others at the universities to seek funding and resources for a research and advisory support service to business for the development of existing and new products.
  • CE11 To showcase new green products and their application across the Sub Region and promote them to the rest of the world.
  • CE12 To seek support for the development of social enterprises in the community which can help to encourage re-use and the more efficient uses of costly materials whilst providing valuable skills and work experience for the long term unemployed so assisting their progression into the labour market.