A golden opportunity awaits

Marcus Gover

It may not come as a big shock to learn that Brexit has been one of the most common talking points since I became WRAP CEO. Most people ask me what impact I think it will have on the environment and on the waste and resources industry in particular. Some people have even stated that I am unlucky to be CEO at this time, but rest assured I don’t see it this way. Whilst a UK vote to leave the European Union surprised and disappointed many people, I believe the resources sector has a big part to play in helping support the economy at a time of instability.

We can offer a business model that doesn't depend on selling large volumes of imported products to meet customers’ needs. A model that exploits the full service life of a product, maintaining it, repairing it and upgrading it as required. And a model that captures the value left in a product when it is no longer required, enabling it to be re-used or recycled. Ultimately it’s about creating a UK repair economy - a sizeable, or perhaps given the season, an Olympic size shift in the way we do business, but one I believe that is necessary. I look forward to sharing my thoughts on this in more detail in due course.

Speaking of the Olympics, and as the Rio Games are upon us, I am reminded of the London Games, where I was fortunate enough to attend as an advisor on recycling initiatives back in 2012. It does mean my photo collection consists mainly of bins rather than athletic pursuits, but anyone who knows me won’t be surprised to hear this!

As a keen sailor though, I do remember watching back home with delight as Ben Ainslie took gold for team GB in the men’s event. And the medals were replicated in other events, not least rowing, which has become one of those rare sports where we can rightly expect our team will perform well time after time.

I mention this because the secret of their success has to have something to do with the consistent way they train for events and their understanding of each other’s roles, and what each party brings to the table.

I recall Team GB’s cycling team performance director saying at the time of the London Games that it was about finding that extra 1% in what the team does to maximise every bit of their preparations. It’s all about consistency and collaboration, and this is every bit as important for recycling as it is cycling.

Delivering more consistent recycling in England is a priority for WRAP, as I know it is for Defra. If we are to create a true circular economy, consistency will be important.

WRAP is grateful for the leadership and dedication shown for the project by former Defra Resources Minister, Rory Stewart, and look forward to picking up the baton with his successor.

We are hoping to publish the vision later this year.

I warmly welcome joint ambitions like Unilever and Hubbub’s ‘Making food go further’, which WRAP is supporting. Nobody has done more to help reduce food waste in the home than WRAP, but we have done so by working with organisations that are committed to the same cause.

It’s why WRAP has launched the Courtauld Commitment 2025, the latest and most far-reaching instalment of the successful voluntary agreement, to which Unilever is a signatory.

Courtauld 2025 is underway and will work along the entire food chain to reduce the environmental impact of our food and drink, from farm to fork and beyond.

WRAP has a successful track record in helping to reduce food waste, but as we move into the future I am confident we can have the same impact in other priority areas, clothing and electricals.

Primark’s joining of the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP 2020), means we now have 65 per cent of UK retail clothing sales by volume represented.

And earlier this month signatories to the Electrical and Electronic Equipment Sustainability Action Plan (esap) came together to discuss progress and ways to evolve the voluntary agreement with a view to maximising its potential. WRAP looks forward to sharing more details soon.

Marcus GoverMarcus Gover


So there is real progress. But there is of course much to do, many hurdles to overcome, but with that many opportunities too. Together as a team I am confident we can channel the Olympic spirit and navigate our way to success.