5 key insights from Resource Conference Cymru 2024

CIWM Conference at Sophia Gardens

Following a sold-out Resource Conference Cymru, Circular Online picks out five key insights from the event.

Last week, Resource Conference Cymru (RCC) returned to Sophia Gardens for another sold-out conference where delegates explored how the resources and waste sector can deliver the infrastructure for a circular Wales.

Here are our five key insights from the event:

  1. Real examples of sustainability driving profits
  2. The reality of digital deposit return schemes
  3. Materials in the circular economy
  4. Circular communities
  5. Lack of circular awareness

Real examples of sustainability driving profits

Wales Circular economy

There is still a myth that being more sustainable increases costs. The greener the business, the higher the prices. Those in the know understand that this doesn’t have to be the case and there is no better example than the initiative Bluestone National Park Resort’s Marten Lewis highlighted during the Circular Economy Showcase at RCC.

Lewis, Head of Community and Sustainability Development, explained how when Bluestone announced they were stopping the sale of single-use plastic bottles on-site, this led to a 13% increase in new customers and £150,000 in bookings. After the email announcing the change, Lewis said the team immediately registered an increase in bookings.

This shows that the public doesn’t just say they care about sustainability, they’re willing to put their money where their mouth is. Lewis shared survey results from Bluestone which showed 97% said sustainability is important and 89% would pay more for a sustainable product.

Lewis made it clear the decision to stop selling single-use plastic water bottles on-site was not greenwashing and was expected to reduce profits. He explained Bluestone doesn’t sell reusable cups on-site and sends texts and emails to guests ahead of their visit to remind them to bring their own reusable cups, which they can fill at one of the water fountains around the park.

The reality of digital deposit return schemes

Wales conference

“People are recycling, let’s not make it hard for them,” Ashley Collins, Powys County Council, told delegates during the panel when emphasising the benefits of digital deposit return schemes.

What is there left to say about DRSs? Following reports that the UK’s DRS is set to be pushed back to 2028, it can feel like the sector is stuck in a holding pattern waiting for change to happen. Against this backdrop, and with Scotland’s scheme running into all sorts of complications, it can be hard to know what more there is to say about DRSs beyond: get a scheme running.

The first session of RCC featured a panel that disagreed on a lot but kept delegates intrigued in a discussion on the future of digital DRSs.

Duncan Midwood of the DDRS Alliance and WRAP’s Emma Hallett spoke about the results of the digital DRS trial in Brecon. It was a reward scheme, rather than a deposit scheme, which Midwood said demonstrated that the public want the convenience of kerbside collections and a range of options for returning items.

Representing the Food and Drink Federation, Jim Bligh countered the voices in favour of a digital scheme by raising concerns about the operational challenge of applying stickers with unique codes to items. He said the focus should be on getting a single interoperable scheme across UK nations up and running – which was something all the panellists wanted.

Materials in the circular economy

CIWM Conference at Sophia Gardens

During an interesting panel, speakers from three different industries who all explained how they are working to make the materials they work with more circular.

Rob Poyer from NappiCycle spoke about the perception challenges around recycling nappies. He explained how people were often shocked they could recycle a post-consumer nappy and were reluctant to engage.

Poyer said that consumers did not like the idea of post-consumer nappies being recycled into packaging, so the challenge is to find innovative use cases for the material, such as in manufacturing equipment or parts.

Circular communities


As part of the smaller breakout sessions, delegates were able to ask more questions and interact more with the presenters. During one session, Dr Nick Morgan and Craig Mitchell explained the key insights from their community-level circular economy pilot.

The Circular Towns Project aimed to assess how circular a community is. The presenters said that the project demonstrated you can gather existing data about a community’s circularity.

Now, they said, the question is what do decision-makers, stakeholders, and communities want/need to know about the “circularity” of communities? Which is something they canvassed from the audience.

One aspect of the discussion that surprised delegates was how much of an impact a single individual could have on a single community. The presenters explained that their research showed a few community leaders were the main drivers of change.

Lack of circular awareness

Gary Walpole RCC
Dr Gary Walpole speaking at RCC 2024.

Dr Gary Walpole opened the morning keynote presentation by saying: “There is a moral and human need to transition to a circular economy, but also a financial need as well.”

Walpole highlighted the public disconnect between fossil fuels, climate change and the circular economy. For changes to be made, he argued the public needs to know how waste is linked to climate change.

Walpole explained that behaviour nudges and economic incentives/disincentives could change people’s attitudes and their ingrained behaviour. The public knows about renewable energy and climate change but not the positive impact circularity can have.

When you’re in a community you are more likely to develop similar habits to others in the same community, Walpole said.

The post 5 key insights from Resource Conference Cymru 2024 appeared first on Circular Online.

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