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Resource management and the circular economy

The resource and waste management sector is at the very core of the circular economy. Over the years, it has evolved to challenge the long-standing practice of treating landfills as the ultimate destination for waste. Instead, there is a growing focus on preventing waste, promoting recycling, and exploring alternative technologies.

Without the sector, the circular economy cannot function, and valuable resources are not kept in use for as long as is possible.

Man in a high-visibility jacket and hard had standing looking at a pile of waste in a sorting plant

Introducing the resource management sector

The sector’s role begins the moment something is discarded, and finishes when something is disposed of, or when a material that can be used in the creation of a new product is passed to a manufacturer for repair, reuse, or recycling.

Organisations operating in the sector collect, sort, clean, grade, treat, transport, and dispose of materials that have been discarded. They provide services including reusing, recycling, incineration of waste, biological processing (such as anaerobic digestion of food waste) and landfilling of residual waste.

The importance of going green

The resource and waste management sector is crucial to the green agenda because it promotes sustainability and environmental responsibility through reuse, recycling, waste reduction, and energy recovery. It conserves natural resources, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and facilitates the transition to a circular economy.

This sector also plays a key role in educating the public, protecting the environment, and adhering to environmental regulations. By minimising pollution and fostering responsible waste practices, it indirectly contributes to biodiversity conservation by reducing habitat destruction linked to the extraction of raw materials and the release of hazardous substances into the environment, while aligning with the broader objectives of achieving net-zero emissions and a sustainable future.

The sector currently contributes 2-3% of total global greenhouse emissions
74,200 new sector roles will be required by 2030
If every UK household sent two items for reuse/ repair/remanufacture each year, 56.2 million items would enter the system, creating new jobs.
Information kindly supplied by:
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CIWM (the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management)

CIWM is the leading professional membership and awarding organisation for professionals in the sustainability, resources, and waste management sector, representing and supporting over 5,500 individuals and 250 Affiliated Organisations across the UK and overseas.

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IEMA is the membership body for environment and sustainability professionals