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RWM (Resource Waste Management) is an annual conference and showcase organised by the Chartered Institute of Waste Management.  It is targeted at the waste management supply chain – from local government, through service providers to equipment and service vendors.

The show heavily promotes innovation in Waste Management and this year included a specific stream on enabling the circular economy – the Circular Economy Connect Zone and Theatre. This year’s programme, chaired by environmental journalist, Maxine Perella, featured companies that have already adopted circular economy principles, helping to inspire the whole supply chain.

SIR were invited to take part in the panel discussion ‘Remanufacturing, the radical shift – upskilling waste operations for material optimisation’.

Colin Andrews represented SIR and was joined on the panel by Willem Stas, Operations Director of Desso (a carpet manufacturer dedicated to Cradle to Cradle supply ); Anne-Marie Benoy, Senior Researcher in Sustainability at Policy Connect, and Mike Tregent, Environment and Business Advisor, Waste Stream Assessment at the Environment Agency.

The panel was asked to comment on:

How should waste producers and companies react to increasing demand for end-of-life products and high value component parts, given that growing interest in remanufacturing could potentially start to conflict with the aims of the waste hierarchy? How can they tap into their logistics networks and reprocessing expertise to become potential suppliers of remanufacture-ready materials?

  • What aspects of the remanufacturing supply chain present a natural fit for waste producers?
  • From materials recovery to materials optimisation; rethinking material inputs / outputs
  • Identifying pre-remanufacturing activities – e.g. removal of high value components prior to reprocessing and reverse logistics
  • Building strategic relationships / logistical networks for product take back

There was a wide ranging discussion around the points, with certain topics being returned to a number of times:

  • The issue of ownership and how maintaining ownership of the product through the circular supply chain is a key benefit. Currently Desso can only provide its cradle to cradle model with its own product
  • The complexity that arises when the circular supply chain moves from Business-to-Business-to-Business (B2B2B) to Consumer-to-Business-to-Business (C2B2B)
  • The different mind-set that is required when returning product to market after its first use (rather than extracting value from waste)
  • The huge opportunity that remanufacturing represents for organisations with mature reverse logistics capabilities.

New and complementary skill sets will be required within existing firms to unlock this opportunity. The most successful firms have already demonstrated the ability to adapt and innovate.  They are well positioned to benefit from the growing acceptance of remanufactured product.

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