Alderman Arnold Hatch, NILGA Vice President and Committee of the Regions Member is participating today in a Debate at the European Committee of the Regions with national associations of local and regional authorities. He is speaking on ‘Innovative Europe – transition to a circular economy and the future of industry’ highlighting the particular challenges faced by Northern Ireland on these issues.
Alderman Hatch said “Northern Ireland is facing a number of interconnected and complex issues in relation to the development of a functional circular economy. In addition to the more commonly experienced issue of the materials import bans recently put in place by China and the potential impact of Brexit, Northern Ireland also faces issues due to scale, peripherality, and the continued lack of a functional regional government.”
Alderman Hatch outlined the delays in publishing the Programme for Government and associated Industrial Strategy for Northern Ireland, and the resultant impact on the development of a circular economy locally. He praised the Department for Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs and the Department for Economy for their recent collaborative efforts but highlighted that “even when a functioning government is restored, the interconnected issues of geopolitics, scale and peripherality will remain.”
Alderman Hatch noted that “The local priority, aside from waste reduction, must be to research and develop local reprocessing activities, but in the short term it will be critically important for Northern Ireland to find new emerging markets for recyclates and to vastly improve the quality of our recyclates.” He promoted the need to improve quality, noting that by improving the quality of recyclable materials, NI could unlock an extra £50million of economic potential and at the same time keep the valuable material within the country, and he highlighted several local examples of good circular economy activity.
Alderman Hatch concluded by emphasising that a key building block for a successful circular economy in Northern Ireland will be to foster a culture shift in attitudes and behaviour towards waste – and to educate the public to redefine waste as a valuable resource.