Resources and waste policy
The chemical sciences play an important role in understanding the environment around us, including preventing and remediating the adverse impacts of waste from human activity. Drawing on evidence from chemical scientists working on these issues, we call for the implementation of waste and resource strategies across all devolved nations of the United Kingdom to follow the waste hierarchy (reduce, reuse, recycle).
Our latest work on resources and waste policy:
- Environment Bill amendments briefing on future wastes: The Government's Environment Bill sets out new provisions about targets, plans and policies relating to waste and resource efficiency. Building on our extensive work with the scientific community, in November 2020, we provided a briefing to members of parliament with suggested amendments relating to future wastes.
- Principles for implementing future waste strategies: We developed a set of policy recommendations summarised in our ‘principles for implementing future waste strategies’ that our community considers are important to the development of waste and resources policy to protect the environment and unlock the opportunities of the circular economy. These principles were developed drawing on evidence from our Environment, Sustainability and Energy Division, our Materials Chemistry Division and chemical scientists in our community working on these issues and first published in September 2019.
Plastic is a versatile material that forms a key component of many products we use today. It is durable, cheap to produce, and has become ubiquitous with ‘single use’ items, which is why when it comes to its end of life it has become a major environmental problem. The chemical sciences have a key role to play in finding solutions to this problem. Drawing on evidence from chemical scientists working in this area, we call for the use of lifecycle based considerations to inform decisions on material and product choices.
Our latest work on plastic waste policy:
- Report on ‘Science to enable sustainable plastics’: The 8th Chemical Sciences and Society Summit (CS3) meeting is summarized in this report, published in June 2020. The work covers research in the areas of plastics’ impact, new sustainable plastics, the recyclability of plastics, and the degradation of plastics. The meeting brought together more than 30 scientists from four participating countries.
- Policy position on ‘Plastic waste’: This policy position, published in September 2019, is part of a policy pack that we developed drawing on evidence from our Materials Chemistry Division and chemical scientists in our community working on this issue. It covers ‘principles for management of plastic waste’ that our community considers are important to the development of waste and resources policy to protect the environment and unlock the opportunities of the circular economy.
- Report on ‘Sustainable plastics – the role of chemistry’: In response to the growing awareness of the impact of plastic waste in the environment, the RSC Materials Chemistry Division hosted a roundtable discussion meeting in March 2019. The meeting brought together stakeholders from across the chemical sciences research community to contribute their views on the future for sustainable plastics, and on the contribution that the chemical sciences will make.
E-waste & Critical Raw Materials (CRMs)
Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is the fastest-growing waste stream on the planet. WEEE has a high content of Critical Raw Materials (CRMs), materials that are important to an economy and that are, or could become difficult to get hold of. The chemical sciences have a key role to play in finding solutions to avoid CRM shortages. Drawing on evidence from chemical scientists working in this area, we call for CRMs to be tracked as a priority in the national waste tracking system combined with the National Materials Datahub, to identify the fates of CRMs in the UK.
Our latest work on e-waste policy and critical raw materials:
- Policy position on ‘recovering the critical raw materials in batteries’: This policy position was published in September 2022 and was developed in conjunction with experts in our community. It covers our asks to enable the recovery of critical raw materials from batteries in the UK.
- Video briefing for MPs on ‘Saving key elements to a green future’: In November 2020, we participated in Sense About Science’s Evidence Week. Together with Dr Matthew Davies and Dr Rhys Charles from SPECIFIC IKC, Swansea University, and Dr Ena Bradley from Seren Technologies, we talked to MPs and parliamentary staff about the importance of saving precious elements to achieve a green transition.
- Consultation response on ‘Electronic waste and the circular economy’: In May 2020, following on from our policy work on critical raw materials and our successful Elements in Danger campaign, we were invited to provide written evidence as well as attend a session to give oral evidence on the Electronic Waste and the Circular Economy inquiry by the House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee. Our recommendations were reflected in the committee’s final report.
- Policy position on ‘Critical raw materials in waste electrical and electronic equipment’: This policy position, published in September 2019, is part of a policy pack that we developed drawing on evidence from our Environment, Sustainability and Energy Division and chemical scientists in our community working on this issue. It covers ‘principles for the management of critical raw materials in e-waste’ that our community considers important to the development of waste and resources policy to protect the environment and unlock the opportunities of the circular economy.
- Consultation response to Net Zero Review. In October 2022, we responded to the UK government's call for evidence for the Review of Net Zero on questions addressed to businesses, the public and academics. Our response focuses in particular on critical raw materials, a circular economy of materials, skills needs for the net zero transition, air quality, and future innovation.