Report warns government is missing the point on remanufacturing

Posted on 8 Dec 2014 by Callum Bentley

A new independent report published today warns that government must do more to ‘lift the regulatory burden’ on UK remanufacturing if the sector’s ‘enormous economic, social and environmental potential’ is to be realised.

The report by the All-Party Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group (APSRG) and All-Party Parliamentary Manufacturing Group (APMG), follows an eight-month inquiry chaired by former Environment Secretary Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP and Barry Sheerman MP, co-chair of both the APSRG and APMG.

The 108-page report lays out more than 20 recommendations for government and industry, warning that with the future of manufacturing ‘inextricably linked to environmental sustainability’, remanufacturing must play an increasingly critical role in helping reduce the consumption of virgin raw materials and in exploiting new areas of comparative advantage.

The report warns that despite its expansion in recent years, the UK remanufacturing sector continues to face significant barriers to growth due to an ongoing regulatory focus on lower denominators of the waste hierarchy such as recycling, rather than on encouraging minimisation of material usage through remanufacture.

Recommendations include calling on government to adopt a legal definition of remanufacturing to provide clarity between it and other aspects of the circular economy, as well as amending its Guidance on the Legal Definition of Waste to distinguish a product that is due to be remanufactured as being exempt from those products considered as waste.

It further calls on government to lead by example by putting UK-remanufactured items at the heart of government procurement projects, including office furnishing, electrical equipment and medical supplies.

The report also calls on industry to work more collaboratively across the supply chain, and challenges Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and third party remanufacturers to open clearer lines of communication between themselves.

To help foster such communication, the report also lays out best practice case studies of how different UK businesses have successfully adopted remanufacturing processes into their business models. It also calls on government to develop an online platform to host and support knowledge exchange between industry players.

Speaking ahead of the report’s launch, inquiry co-chair Caroline Spelman MP commented: “The UK can be a world leader in remanufacturing excellence, but only if government and industry set themselves ambitious targets and commit to working together to realise the enormous ‘triple win’ potential that remanufacturing offers in economic, social and environmental terms.

“The opportunities are enormous. Remanufacturing increases the potential for reshoring parts and products, provides opportunities for improving national resource resilience and has the potential for economic growth and the creation of thousands of skilled jobs, particularly at SME level. As we approach the next election, we urge this government and the next to do more to exploit this important new frontier of economic and environmental growth potential.”

Also commenting ahead of the launch, inquiry co-chair Barry Sheerman MP added: “The case for achieving greater levels of remanufacturing in this country is undeniable, not just in environmental terms, but in social and economic terms also. That’s why this report calls on government to create new apprenticeships across the remanufacturing value chain and ensure sustainable design and engineering courses are taught in higher education institutions across the UK. It is vital that remanufacturing, and the wider circular economy, are put at the heart of government strategies for skills and employment over the next 10 years.”

The report will be launched formally in Parliament today at a reception in the Houses of Parliament. Waste Minister Dan Rogerson will receive the report on behalf of the Government.