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Connections inspire innovation at Scottish Resources Conference

It can be tough to park the daily tasks for a while and take time out to look ahead, but the value of doing just this is incalculable, so clearly demonstrated again for me at this years’ Scottish Resources Conference.

Iain Gulland | 5 Oct 18

The event, delivered by Zero Waste Scotland, CIWM and SEPA, was fizzing with a resolve to address the really big issues, and brimming with a collective will to innovate in order to do so. I continue to be inspired by the drive and determination of colleagues and partners across the breadth of sectors we work with to find new circular solutions on everything from food waste, to litter to the bioeconomy.

A jam-packed first day opened with a Ministerial address from Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, outlining some of the steps that the Scottish Government is taking to develop a more circular Scotland – not least the introduction of a Deposit Return Scheme, the nitty gritty of which was much-debated being debated by delegates. The speech contained the widely-reported launch of a marine plastics prevention fund – which Zero Waste Scotland will administer - we’re keen to see expressions of interest before 16 November.

I took part in a plenary on plastics, which as you might expect, has more questions than we could fit in! This issue, and the people power driving it, formed a backdrop for the whole event. The spotlight is very much on us, as people in a position to do something about these issues, and as several speakers noted, the door is open for action.

What a DRS should look like was on a lot of minds on the first day, now that the consultation has closed, and the conference provided a useful and timely space for stimulating conversations around this. More challenging issues including China’s ban on imported recyclate and Scotland’s own forthcoming ban on biodegradable municipal waste being sent to landfill were tackled on the programme – and in many a discussion outwith the conference hall.

Day two focused on key circular economy topics addressing strategic aspects for circular development including skills, business innovation and practice,

A provocative double-header keynote and Q&A kicked off day two. Mark Shayler, Ape founder and disruption specialist, was followed by Iceland’s Head of Packaging Ian Schofield, who described how supermarket Iceland, with 2.5% market share, is making a big impact with its headline-grabbing commitment to remove plastics from all its own-brand products by 2023. As a market leader in ready meals, this is indeed a challenge. Mark outlined some of the big changes that he sees as shaping our future, and in a combative Q&A, challenged Ian on not focusing on just plastics, at the exclusion of the biggest threat: climate change. Food for thought for us all, if you’ll pardon the pun!

It was about more than just what’s on the programme: huge looming issues such as Brexit, the impacts of automation on the workforce and how our work contributes to tackling climate change were also discussed both in and out of sessions. Opportunities for tackling these topics with people you don’t get the chance to meet every day, and get a different perspective, are for me what the Scottish Resources Conference is all about. These connections inspire innovation.

This innovation was evident in a great example of the circular economy in action, which we highlighted at conference, has published a case study on bread-to-beer firm Bute Brew, an island company who’s clever, circular idea is going from strength-to-strength.

As Mark Shayler said in that thought-provoking day two keynote, creativity is going to be the most-sought after skill in the future, and we need forums such as this to provoke that creativity and innovation that is going to help us forge solutions to the challenges ahead.

Collaboration, as many speakers mentioned over the past few days is essential to this and it’s in that spirit that I was humbled to accept an Outstanding Contribution Award on the closing night’s Scottish Resources Awards – it truly needs many people to deliver our circular vision. I wish a hearty well done to all the award winners – inspiring, each and every one.

They embody my closing call to action to delegates – be brave and innovate!

It has been a pleasure once again working with the CIWM and SEPA, as well as our sponsors (Coca Cola, Craemer, Envipco, Iona Capital Ltd, Valpak, and Vision Techniques) on the delivery of this event.

This event has an exciting future, and as we bid farewell to the EICC, which has served us well over the last three years, I look forward to conference continuing to inspire set the agenda as we move to Perth Concert Hall for 2019. I hope to see many of you there.

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