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ISL Welcomes DEFRA’s Waste Prevention Programme & Advocates for Action over Research in Industrial Symbiosis

4th September 2023

International Synergies Limited (ISL) welcomes DEFRA’s Policy paper “The waste prevention programme for England: Maximising Resources, Minimising Waste” (July 2023). DEFRA’s policy links waste prevention to the global agendas of climate change, resource security, job creation, cost reduction and decarbonisation.

Of the 3 strategies (Designing out waste, Systems and services, and Data and information), industrial symbiosis (IS) features centrally in Data and information.

ISL welcome the mention of NISP® England and NISP® Northern Ireland (now Resource Matching Service – RMS) documenting the ability of IS to deliver impact at scale.

Companies in NISP® delivered (not just identified!) carbon emissions reductions of 42 million tonnes for less than £1 per tonne, whilst realising over £1 billion in cost savings + many other environmental and economic benefits.

Both Data and Facilitation are identified as crucial to IS, but the critical relationship between the two is not expounded. Whilst data is fundamental, on its own it generally does not deliver IS transactions/synergies. Facilitation is key in addressing market failures that are preventing UK PLC from realising the £7B annual cost savings (DG GROW report 2018). 80% of opportunities lie outside one’s own sector and cross-sector working does not come naturally; which is why 3rd party facilitation is essential.

Supporting facilitation, platforms such as ISL’s SYNERGie® assist with data, technologies and matching allowing facilitators more time to focus on engagement. ISL have proposed a development of SYNERGie® providing a digital solution that would not only push resources up the waste hierarchy but would also cater for all aspects of duty of care and waste tracking within a single system.

There are 2 areas where the policy paper let us down:

1. ‘what government has done’, and

2. ‘call for more research’

UK Gov have underestimated the global impact that its support of NISP® (through DEFRA and the FCDO) has had as the methodology has been replicated in 30 countries.

ISL disagrees with the call for further research as ample research has been produced in the last 20 years that unanimously recommends a facilitated model as the most effective in delivering impact and confirms huge economic and environmental potential.

A study (2023) for the West Midlands Combined Authority concluded “Even under the pessimistic test, it was found that WMIS (facilitated IS) has the potential to deliver a very high return-on investment (ROI) delivering a benefit cost ratio of between 10:1 and 40:1 where 4:1 is considered ‘very good’ by Govt.” ISL submitted a compelling evidence base to the Skidmore review of Net Zero pointing out, inter alia, that IS is particularly effective at addressing Scope 3 emissions (the greatest GHG impact for most sectors) and delivered at least cost.

The EC has invested heavily in IS with the European Community of Practice on Industrial and Urban Symbiosis being just one example. ISL are technical lead for this programme ( IS training programmes have been developed in Europe for facilitators and companies and ISL has been delivering training for facilitators globally since 2004.

Finally, given 20+ years of IS delivery experience then now is the time for action.

The UK has all the tools to deliver a regionally delivered, nationally coordinated IS programme with all the concomitant benefits that are measurable, immediate, cost effective and would put the UK at the forefront of Net Zero ambitions.

Read DEFRA’s Policy Paper here: Read it

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