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Be proactive, recyclers urged, as sustainability drive grows

A leading futurist has told recyclers to be more proactive about their vital role in ensuring the earth’s limited and valuable natural resources are recovered and used sustainably.

Matthew Griffin, founder of the 311 Institute, a global advisory firm, gave the keynote address at the Bureau of International Recycling’s latest convention in Abu Dhabi. With BIR celebrating its 75th birthday, Griffin set out issues he said would affect its members in the coming decades and a key part of his message was to challenge them to ‘adapt to world realities’.

‘Waste is a cultural bias,’ he told delegates. ‘Previously, we would use something and it would go to landfill. Landfill is waste but as an industry you are not dealing with waste, you are dealing with resource. It’s a marketing problem.’

‘Re-market yourselves’

He cautioned that many recyclers were still using the words ‘waste’ or ‘waste recyclers’ on their websites. ‘You are “resource recyclers”, you should replace waste with “resource”.

‘It is doing you a disservice. Re-market yourselves.’ The futurist argued the world was splitting along cultural, economic and political lines, disrupting supply chains and forcing businesses to re-think where and how there operate. Fragile governments brought uncertainty, he insisted, and resource scarcity was a message ‘you should hammer home’.

Griffin believes the greatest opportunity for recyclers is ‘resource weaponisation’, whereby countries either ban exports of rare earth and other essential metals or erect trade tariffs to protect domestic industries. ‘Resource scarcity is concerning governments everywhere and that’s kind of a good thing because if they can’t get materials they will give tax and other incentives so that you can recover and recycle [them] locally.”

On top of that, he told his audience, investors were increasingly concerned about sustainability. ‘Investors pull the strings. They say: “If you cannot prove your company is green, we will dump your stock from our portfolio”. They are on your side. That means industry will want to talk to you.’

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