A whole new approach to reusing and repurposing the region’s precious resources was launched today (Tuesday September 21) alongside a £240,000 fund to help local manufacturers cut waste and their use of raw materials.
The region’s first ever Circular Economy Routemap has been drawn up by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to show what can be done to make sectors such as manufacturing, construction and food more efficient in the way they use resources.
The Routemap was announced to businesses attending the launch of the new West Midlands Low Carbon and Circular Economy Fund at the Library of Birmingham this morning. The Fund has been set up by the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise (GBSLEP) specifically for firms in the low carbon and food and drinks manufacturing sectors.
To apply for a grant, food and drinks manufacturers will need to work with low carbon innovators to develop more eco-friendly production methods that can either cut waste or carbon or drive the use of sustainable food and drink packaging.
The transition to a circular economy - one which encourages the repair, reuse and regeneration of resources and materials as well the use of renewable energy – is seen as critical if the West Midlands is to achieve its #WM2041 target of becoming a net zero carbon region within the next 20 years.
The move to a circular economy can not only extend the life cycle of the resources used to make products, reducing or eliminating waste, but also drive clean economic growth and the creation of tens of thousands of new jobs in low carbon and green technologies.
The Fund and Routemap were launched by Cllr Ian Courts, WMCA portfolio holder for environment and energy, GBSLEP Net Zero Champion and leader of Solihull Council, ahead of the arrival in Birmingham’s Centenary Square today of the UK’s Zero Carbon Tour electric-powered battle bus - part of the UN-backed Race to Zero campaign. The bus is visiting 30 towns and cities across the UK before finishing in Glasgow for COP26.
Cllr Courts said:
“As the Net Zero Champion for GBSLEP, I’m backing the brand new West Midlands Low Carbon and Circular Economy Fund. It’s an important initiative that provides funding for businesses to lower their carbon emissions. This is critical in achieving our local and national net zero targets and most importantly mitigating the impact on our environment. Low Carbon is a key growth sector and GBSLEP is committed to helping SMEs to create solutions that will help deliver the government’s Plan for Growth and Green Recovery.”
The Routemap has been drawn up by the WMCA to understand the flow of resources and materials across the region and identify opportunities in both the private and public sectors that can grow the circular economy, creating new business opportunities and jobs, whilst supporting the environment.
It outlines how innovative approaches to manufacturing products can be supported at a regional level including newly created hubs dedicated to zero waste construction of buildings and infrastructure and the exchange and recovery of materials.
The Routemap has identified three initial priorities for focus:
- A Circular Battery Partnership to promote circular battery manufacturing in the West Midlands
- A Circular Construction Repurposing programme to refurbish and repurpose residential and commercial properties
- A Circular Hubs Network to encourage the sharing of food, products, and skills in communities.
As well as extending the lifecycle of resources, cutting consumption and contributing to the #WM2041 target, adopting the Routemap will also benefit the region’s economy. A 2020 report by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) found that a circular economy could bolster the UK economy by £75 billion and create over half a million jobs.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said:
“We are already taking bold strides in the West Midlands through our WM2041 net zero agenda to protect our environment, grow our economy and provide the good ‘green jobs’ of the future.
“Just as we were the home of the industrial revolution in the past, this new Routemap demonstrates how we’re now the home of the ‘green’ industrial revolution. Low-carbon is already the region’s fastest-growing sector, employing 100,000 people locally, and transitioning to a more circular economy is only going to help boost this further.”
The circular economy is already strong in the West Midlands, with Wolverhampton City Council being the first English city to sign the European Circular Cities declaration and world-class industry and research activity across the region. The Fund will build on these capabilities and be a tangible first step on the region’s route to a circular economy.
To qualify for a grant from the West Midlands Low Carbon and Circular Economy Fund, projects are expected to fulfil one of the following themes:
- Implementing circular economy principles for food waste in food and drink manufacturing
- Decarbonisation of food and drink manufacturing processes
- Sustainable packaging in food and drink manufacturing
A total of £240,000 will be available to support businesses located in the GBSLEP, Black Country LEP (BCLEP) and Coventry and Warwickshire LEP (CWLEP) areas. Businesses wanting to apply should visit the website: https://gbslep.co.uk/tenders/funding-calls/9/low-carbon-and-circular-economy-fund-autumn-2021/