Resource protection – clearer Government action needed

For some time now it has been clear that industry and environmentalists are as one voice in a common need to protect and conserve precious material resources, at home and abroad.

A number of us – including ourselves, Friends of the Earth and the Engineering Employers Federation – said as much this month in an open communication to the Government’s business and environmental departments as represented by Vince Cable and Caroline Spellman.

Our letter made it clear that we are alarmed by the level of material waste in the UK –and by the apparent lack of a plan: The UK’s Engineering Employers Federation (EEF) currently sees 80% of management identifying limited access to raw materials as a business threat. For one in three of these firms it is seen as their primary risk and threat to growth. 

Global concerns about food security and water security can now therefore add materials security to the growing list. Current times see commodity prices surging and alarm steadily rising about shortages of key materials.

Needless to say, in all these matters of security of goods, packaging and packaging technology offers the hope of relief together with a net environmental benefit. However, all of us need to be coordinated and pointed in the right direction. And while the Government’s Resource Security Action Plan is a good first move we need something more.  

We believe that the UK needs the creation of an Office of Resource Management. This firstly in order to spearhead a much needed Government approach to resource efficiency. Second, we need to get the Government and its departments away from an outmoded obsession about “waste” and “waste management”.  These issues are still being passed around to little effect between too many departments and sectional interests – Defra, BIS, DECC and DCLG, to name but four!

UK manufacturing industry meantime is already trying to get on the front foot; use waste-as-a-resource and protect all materials sources for future production. Our Government should be thinking and acting the same way.

I therefore hope that our proposed Office of Resource Management takes shape. We need a coordinated and dynamic response to this materials scarcity problem – and soon.

Many thanks again

Dick Searle