Taking a circular leap of faith - Dr Liz Goodwin speech at Resource, ExCel, London 8 March 2016


Good morning, it’s great to be here today,

And thanks, Louise, for the introduction.

I was delighted to hear that the Scottish Government is to invest £70 million in a circular economy fund.

I know that the case for doing so was partly down to the great work of Zero Waste Scotland.

The Stirling team will always be a positive part of WRAP’s history…

At the heart of Zero Waste Scotland is knowledge, knowhow, and a no holds barred approach to tackling the priority resource issues.

This is also true of WRAP.

When you add this to our unrivalled evidence, our ability to bring groups together, and our track record of delivering action, it’s why in my opinion WRAP is the best organisation in the world.

And one that I’ve had the privilege of working at for 15 years, 9 of those as CEO.

Applying to work for WRAP was the best decision of my life…

… my decision to leave is the hardest.

And just as I’m taking a giant leap of faith when I leave WRAP in June…

The same is true when I first applied.

I thought I’d be with previous employers, ICI, forever.

But, I decided I wanted to make a real difference, to help leave a positive legacy for future generations. 

And that’s what ultimately drew me to WRAP.

And it’s clear this difference is being felt. 

You can go to the most obscure meeting and people will say:

“Gosh you work for WRAP. I love WRAP. You guys do great things.”

I say this not to self-congratulate…

Just to emphasise the importance of the work we do.

And this is only possible because the Government of the day took a leap of faith in setting us up.

Our work to increase recycling and reduce food waste, amongst other things, has validated this leap of faith.

It’s also why governments to this day continue to fund our work.

The funding supports WRAP’s vision for a world where resources are used sustainably.

By the time this conference ends there will be around 400,000 more people on the planet and even fewer resources to draw from.

So we need to take steps today to ensure future generations are best equipped to deal with the challenges ahead. 

Moving to a circular economy will help achieve this.

By re-inventing how we design, produce and sell products…

and re-thinking how we consume our products, to redefine what is possible through re-use and recycling.

Many are talking about the circular economy but few are taking action. 

This needs to change.

So my message today is that this year has to be about delivering the circular economy on the ground.

It means more people taking a leap of faith.

You might be thinking: ‘That’s all very good Liz, but I work for a big business, how do I convince the powers that be to do this?’

Or, ‘I work for a small business, show me the evidence of how the circular economy has made a difference to a company like mine’.

Let me answer these common questions head on.

Argos is a prime example of a major retailer that has embraced the principles of the circular economy.

Working with WRAP through the REBus project, the retailer launched a gadget trade-in initiative last year.

In practice it means customers can trade-in used tablets and mobile phones over the counter at all stores nationwide.

The customer advisor at the counter will offer the customer a quote for the traded items, which they can receive on an Argos card and then spend in store. 

It’s an easy and convenient way for the customer to trade-in.

Right now WRAP is working with several major brands and retailers on new business models.

We will share more details of this work soon.

Today is a chance for me to share results from new business models with some of the SMEs we work with.

Bandvulc is an independent re-treading and tyre management company.

The family business, which was founded by two brothers 45 years-ago may not be a household name…

But with 70% of supermarket fleets running on Bandvulc remanufactured tyres, the chances are your kitchen cupboards are full of groceries delivered by lorries with tyres fitted by them.

In fact, a retreaded Bandvulc tyre is fitted every 2 and half minutes across Europe.

And they are directly relevant to the waste and resources industry having designed the Wastemaster tyre…

…designed specifically for bin lorries, which commonly experience tyre wear and tear from driving along kerbs. 

With around 300 employees, the Devon company maybe small, but its impacts are big.

So where does WRAP fit into Bandvulc’s story?

Renowned for its innovation Bandvulc wanted to build a case for developing a sustainable business model. 

Working with WRAP, it developed a service lease model for delivery fleet van tyres

In practice it provides tyre management and support services to a fleet of vans using its own retreaded tyres, which when they wear out are recovered, retread and refitted to the vans through the life of the contract.

They sell in effect a van mileage service, not tyres.

This created a new business model, new market, bringing new revenue, while saving valuable resources.

Bandvulc’s vanvulc tyre service has generated new revenue in excess of £4 million in the first 3 years.

The model also provides significant environmental savings, conserving finite raw materials and reducing carbon emissions.

So far the Vanvulc tyre service has also sold £500,000 of retread van tyres and Bandvulc expects this to rise to £1.5 million next year.

As well as the financial benefits, the service has so far avoided 300 tonnes of C02 and 70 tonnes of rubber going to landfill.

Bandvulc’s circular leap of faith is paying off.

It’s about doing something extraordinary in the ordinary course of doing business. 

And talking of extraordinary, there can be nothing more so than supplying equipment and furniture to hospitals and schools in Ebola hit regions of Guinea and Sierra Leone.

That’s precisely what Globechain, another SME we work with, has done through working with St Bart’s NHS trust.

Globechain is an online reuse platform - a ‘Freecycle for corporates'.

It connects people, charities and businesses to enable them to reuse unwanted items within a global supply chain network.

Working with over 700 companies, it helps businesses reduce waste management costs and reduce tonnage to landfill.

May Al-Karooni, is Globechain’s Founder and CEO.

Through the REBus project, May, worked with WRAP to monitor the supply chain of goods through the system.

This allowed her to understand how to bring together innovation and legislation under one framework.

May is another example of a business leader taking the leap of faith to create something extraordinary.

She’s here today, and part of a panel looking at the future role of technology as an enabler of access over ownership. I encourage you to attend.

As they have one eye on the future, so too does WRAP.

After June WRAP will have in place, or will be in the process of recruiting a new CEO.

But whilst the leader will change, our role in the circular economy will remain consistent.

One that sees us at the forefront in delivering the action that will benefit the economy, environment and society.

It’s what we do best…

It’s what we’ve always done best.

I personally feel a strong moral responsibility about our work. 

That’s why my decision to leave WRAP is such a tough one – a leap of faith.

And all good things must come to an end…

If you told me 9 years ago that our work would not only change business practices but visions too, I’m not sure I would have believed it…

But it’s true.

Whilst it’s impossible to mention all the things I’m proud of, right up there is our work to tackle food waste.

It’s the one area that no matter where I go, people remark on.

From research through to results, WRAP leads.

Our voluntary agreements are a major factor in this – just look at the success of the three phases of the Courtauld Commitment, and the Hospitality and Food Service Agreement.

The Courtauld Commitment 2025 will unify the sectors involved in these agreements, along with a broad range of businesses in the food system.

There’s nothing quite like it anywhere in the world.

So we are very excited by this new work, and look forward to sharing details very soon.

I’m also proud of our developing work around clothing and electricals.

They will be a big focus for WRAP going forward.

In time I believe they could match our work on food in terms of its positive impact.

Because like food, there is so much unnecessary waste, and so we intend to end this.

What about recycling? It’s by no means the whole story of the circular economy, but it’s still an important part.

Yet, when I mention recycling and collections, I half expect a raised eyebrow or groan.

Somehow we have got to a place where recycling has taken on negative connotations for some people.

Yes I know there have been real challenges to the industry, not least with some of the plastics reprocessing businesses.

And I know too that recycling rates have plateaued.

But let’s not let the challenges mask the great success story recycling has been in the UK.

I know a certain former Communities Secretary and I will probably never agree on this… I’m not holding out hope for a leaving card from him either…

But, let’s look at the facts.

The UK’s recycling rates rose faster in the first decade of the millennium than any other country in Europe.

And during that time the sector more than doubled in size despite the recession.

In the time I’ve been at WRAP we’ve gone from a non-recycling nation, to a nation by and large at one with recycling.

But it’s true that we have more to do…

Our work to bring greater consistency to household waste and recycling collections in England is the next step.

The industry vision will be available this summer.

This work is only possible because of the passion of the current Defra Minister, Rory Stewart, together with strong partnerships and relationships – something WRAP has built many of over the years...

and without those partnerships and relationships much of the progress couldn’t have happened.

Bringing people together to work on common goals and operating in the space between government, businesses and society…

… it’s part of WRAP’s USP, which I believe is needed now more than ever.

Because the decisions we take on matters of resource efficiency today will impact on the generations of tomorrow.

If we care for the prospects for our sons, daughters, nieces, and nephews…

and care for the environment and the resources they will inherit…

then we must mobilise and take action today to help create opportunities to maximise what resources we have.

You’ve heard examples of those today that are doing just that.

The challenge now is for more to follow.

A leap of faith from the many not the few.

Thank you.