Shining the spotlight on WRAP Cymru’s Market Development Programme

Carl Nichols

I recently prepared a speech about WRAP Cymru’s Market Development Programme, which is in place to increase the supply of, and demand for, products containing recycled content in Wales. I started by writing a list of everything that our dedicated team has been busy doing to facilitate this in collaboration with others. Seeing it all on paper reminded me just how much excellent work is being done and how vital it is to the achievement of a circular economy.

To increase the supply of products containing recycled content, we take a twofold approach.

Firstly, we have commenced working with a number of influential businesses to develop supply chain demonstration projects. These will showcase how both real and perceived barriers to increasing recyclate – particularly plastic – in Welsh manufacturing can be overcome. Existing WRAP Cymru research identifies barriers spanning the entire supply chain, from limited availability, quality and consistency of recycled materials, right through to market perceptions and confidence. We will be working to address these, whilst highlighting both economic viability and environmental benefits.

At present, it is estimated that just 10% of the plastic used by manufacturers in Wales is recycled material sourced from secondary markets, so one of our key objectives is to utilise the evidence from these projects to make recommendations that will enable upscaling and replication across the industry.

Furthermore, we are delivering the three-year, £6.5 million Circular Economy Fund on behalf of the Welsh Government. This is designed to support businesses in Wales that are seeking capital investment to introduce, or increase, recycled content in the goods they manufacture. As with our demonstration trials, the priority material is recycled plastic; however, businesses using recycled paper, card or textiles are also welcome to get in touch.

We have so far awarded five grants, with a total investment – including match-funding – in excess of £2.08 million. Over three years, this is expected to result in the incorporation of more than 10,000 tonnes of recyclate and the prevention of over 6,200 tonnes of CO2, and we are still accepting grant applications, so I look forward to sharing even more good news with you in the coming months.

Now let’s turn our attention to how WRAP Cymru is working to increase demand for products containing recycled content, and also demand for re-used goods.

Again, collaboration is key. We are continuing to work closely with public sector bodies and representatives to deliver projects that showcase how policies and practice can prioritise circular procurement.

The Welsh public sector spends approximately £6 billion each year on goods and services. As such, there is a significant opportunity for public bodies to use procurement to achieve beneficial environmental, economic and social outcomes. It can help to deliver the seven goals of the Well-being of Future Generations Act. In addition, the Welsh Government’s ‘Low Carbon Wales’ delivery plan, which sets out a commitment for the public sector to decarbonise by 2030, will require a fundamental change in the way goods and services are procured. Decisions taken now – in addition to longer-term procurement strategies – will influence the ability of the public sector to meet this commitment.

Natural Resources Wales estimates that nearly 60% of their carbon emissions are a direct result of their procurement of goods and services. Moving away from a purely cost-focused approach to one that encompasses environmental impacts will help to prepare the Welsh supply chain for the low carbon markets of the future. We are providing hands-on, bespoke support to public sector organisations in Wales to embed sustainability into their procurement strategies and activities. This includes procuring more products that are inclusive of recycled content, and increasing the procurement of re-used products, in order to drive the market. Since 2017, we have successfully delivered 21 support projects to Welsh public bodies and are in the process of delivering several others, which I will tell you more about in future blogs.

We have also recently held a series of events across Wales and have published freely-available guidance on the procurement of plastics to further assist the Welsh public sector in taking the lead when it comes to sustainable material use. The guidance can help by providing simple processes and tools to inform internal decision-making and purchasing choices for all products containing plastic.

Prompted by the aforementioned speech-writing, it’s been great to reflect on all of these significant strides that we are taking towards the truly circular economy that Wales deserves. I am so proud of what our Market Development team – and the rest of WRAP Cymru – is achieving in collaboration with others. Collaboration is definitely key.