Material Flow Analysis
As part of the baseline analysis, a high-level material flow analysis was produced. This analysis informed where the Circular Economy Routemap should focus and what actions to prioritise.
It is important to note that no standard methodology exists to conduct material flow analysis. We have followed international best practice and our own expertise to develop this baseline analysis.
Our choice of methodology was informed by Finland and the Netherlands’ own approach in developing a circular economy routemap. As circular economy pioneers, both countries started by conducting a high-level analysis of material flows within three to five key sectors of their economy.
For the West Midlands, five sectors were selected based on the policy analysis conducted, additional desk-based research and stakeholder engagement. The Local Industrial Strategy was particularly helpful in narrowing down a choice of sectors which reflect the industrial and economic strengths of the region.
Step 1: Selecting Boundaries, Inputs, Sectors and Outputs
One of our first steps was to define the boundary of this material flow analysis. For the purpose of this analysis, ‘region’ includes WMCA’s constituent local authorities as well as the geographical area covered by the three LEPs.
Additionally, the boundary of our analysis has been matched to the land area, population size and economic contribution as a share of the UK as closely as possible. We have done so when taking a top-down approach to interpolate national or regional data, as well as when taking a bottom-up approach when extrapolating more granular local data.
Furthermore, according to best practice, the most recent datasets have been used. In this case the year is 2019-2020. Only the Exiobase has data dating from 2011. It is not expected that data on exiobase would have changed significantly between 2011-2019/20. This is an appropriate methodology for high-level, indicative analysis.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic it is expected 2020-2021 will look different. It is recommended the data obtained from the 2021 Census is used for future, more accurate modelling.
The choice of resources (inputs), sectors and waste types (outputs) to include in this analysis was informed by Metabolic’s Circularity Gap Report, as well as their case study Circular Charlotte. These choices were also informed by the West Midlands’ strengths and emerging opportunities.
– Inputs in Metabolic’s report include ores and minerals, which have been grouped under Minerals for this analysis.
– Fossil fuels have been grouped under Energy Carriers.
– Biomass has been grouped under Natural Resources.
– Water was added as a new input of interest.
The Circular Charlotte report uses the sectors: Households, Commercial, Construction, Public. This analysis was performed solely as a waste flow analysis, whereas the WMCA analysis had the intention of mapping material flows as well as waste flows and carbon emissions.
For this reason, the sectors were divided as follows:
The sectors of Households and Construction were kept and renamed Housing and Construction, Demolition and Excavation (CD&E).
Commercial, which included a range of services and sectors such as Transportation & Warehousing, Food services, Manufacturing, Trade, was dissected and split into relevant sectors for this analysis. Out of this came the sectors: Industrial & Manufacturing, Agriculture & Food and Transport.
- Energy generation was added as a Sector to encapsulate renewable and non-renewable energy generation.
- Outputs in this analysis are mainly in the form of waste. Based on the Circular Charlotte example the following outputs are used in this analysis:
Recycling was modified to Recycling/Re-use as it was deemed important to address the topic of waste re-use.
Composting was renamed Beneficial use of Organics to encapsulate certain waste types which did not fit clearly under composting, such as Anaerobic Digestion.
Landfill was kept without modification.
Incineration, which does not figure in Metabolic’s report, was added to this analysis.
Wastewater was also added as a new output of interest to map the flows of water from start to finish.
Products & Services and Losses were added to the analysis to map resources which do not end up in the waste stream. Further definitions are provided in the sections below.
A complete breakdown of what has been included in each input, sector and output is provided in Tables 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Step 2: Measuring the inputs
The next step was to measure the inputs of the material flow analysis (corresponding to the left-hand side of the diagrams presented in this report).
Natural resources and minerals
Natural resource and minerals flows are taken from Exiobase. Exiobase is a global, detailed Multi-Regional Environmentally Extended Supply-use Table (MR-SUT) and Input-Output Table (MR-IOT). Information on supply and use is available for 44 countries, covering 200 products and 163 industries.
The first step was to classify the products by product type: natural resources (renewable resources), minerals (non-renewable resources), and N/A. These are shown in Table 1 on page 83.
The second step was to classify the industries into sectors: Industry
& Manufacturing, Construction, Demolition and Excavation (CD&E), Agriculture & Food, Transport, Energy generation (renewable and non- renewable). These are also shown in Table 1.
Once this classification of both the products and activities was made, the flow of resources from all countries, by resource type into each sector was visible for the UK.
The next step consisted of interpolating this national data for the West Midlands region (as described in the ‘Interpolation’ step below).
The following steps were followed:
Flows of energy carriers (coal, oil and gas) flowing into each sector are widely available for the Local Authorities (LAs).
For sectors of CD&E and Energy generation, LA data is not available. Consequently, the national dataset, Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES), has been used to proportionally split the energy carriers flowing into ‘Industrial’.
Similarly, for Energy generation (or Electricity), only the sectors of Industry & Commercial and Housing are covered in the LA dataset. Therefore, national datasets (DUKES) were used to proportionally split the energy carriers flowing into the missing sectors.
It was important to have a uniformity in units across flows as much as possible, in order to allow an appropriate comparison between flows. For energy carriers, a reasonable decision was to convert all flows of coal, oil and gas into values of tons of oil equivalent. This was done by taking the data values in Gigawatt hours, and using gross calorific values (CVs) of coal, oil and gas to convert into tons of oil equivalent.
Renewables include wind, wave and tidal, solar PV, hydro, landfill gas, sewage gas, other bioenergy, anaerobic digestion, biomass and waste.
Nuclear energy is not used widely in the region and was therefore not included in the analysis.
The following steps were taken:
National water abstraction data is available under the following categories: Public water supply, Spray irrigation, Agriculture (excl. spray irrigation), Electricity supply industry, Other industry, Fish farming, cress growing, amenity ponds, Private water supply, Other.
Data is available for the Midlands and is interpolated for the West Midlands.
Little information is provided in the methodology documents for water abstraction as to what sectors may be included in “Public water supply”, which represents the area with largest share of water abstracted. From a document by The Open University entitled Water in the UK, it states that “the public water supply is the water abstracted, purified and distributed through water mains to houses, offices, some industries and farms by the water companies”. For this reason, the integration of data on water supply is incomplete.
Water abstraction for CD&E is not provided in the data. This is likely to be included in either ‘Other Industry’ or ‘Public Water Supply’. For this reason, water supply to CD&E cannot be mapped to a sufficient level of detail.
A note on water supply: It is worth noting that we could not obtain high- quality data on the breakdown of public water supply usage.
A note on water input into energy generation: The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, ENV15 - Water abstraction tables for England, 2019 was used and contained an entry entitled ‘Electricity supply industry’. This informed water supply associated with energy generation.
A note on water input into CD&E: No recent, high-quality data for CD&E’s water use could be found online. It was assumed it was lumped into public water supply or other industry. Further in-depth analysis into the material and waste flows could look at the average embodied water of typical construction products using for example the BRE Green Guide.
Step 3: Measuring the outputs
The next step was to measure the outputs (corresponding to the right- hand side of the diagrams presented in this report).
The following steps were taken:
The UK Waste Interrogator was used to gather data on the flow of waste from different sectors for the West Midlands region.
There are 20 facility types for the region. In the first stage, these were classified into sectors: Industrial & Commercial wastes, Housing wastes, Construction wastes and Agriculture & Food wastes.
The waste types are found under European Waste Codes (EWCs) and each waste type was classified into the chosen waste sectors: Recycling/Re-use, Beneficial use of organic waste, Landfilling and Incineration. Beneficial use of organic waste was initially classified under Composting, but initial analysis of the waste data revealed some EWCs such as ‘Anaerobic digestion’ did not fit clearly into Composting, so this category was renamed. The full list of EWCs alongside their assigned waste sector can be found in Table 1.
The following steps were taken:
- Wastewater data has been provided for the WMCA (not West Midlands). A total volume of wastewater and tonnage of sludge is provided.
- No information is available regarding the relative distribution of wastewater by sector. For this reason, the assumption is made that wastewater is proportional in distribution by sector to water supply by sector. For example, the water supply industry accounts for 49% of the total water abstracted, so it is also responsible for producing 49% of wastewater.
- The flow of sludge would usually end up in Landfill, Incineration, Farmland, Surface Water or Others, as shown in the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) report Sewage Treatment in the UK. However, due to outdated nature of this report and the data contained within, as well as the lateness in receiving wastewater data, this flow was not included in the analysis.
- A note on wastewater data: Wastewater data coming from each sector was not available. As a result, the assumption had to be made that the proportion of wastewater coming from each sector was proportional to the water abstracted by each sector. This is an approximated assumption and is unlikely to be reflective of a real condition. Furthermore, the data applies to the WMCA region (as opposed to the West Midlands which was used throughout). This will entail slightly smaller figures for Wastewater.
Step 4: Measuring greenhouse gas emissions
Emissions associated with the flows of materials and waste through each sector were measured.
Scope of emission
The DEFRA Environmental Report Guidelines were used.
Scope 1 (Direct) GHG emissions: These include emissions from activities owned or controlled by your organisation that release emissions into the atmosphere. They are direct emissions. Examples of Scope 1 emissions include emissions from combustion in owned or controlled boilers, furnaces, vehicles; emissions from chemical production in owned or controlled process equipment.
Scope 2 (Energy indirect) GHG emissions: These include emissions released into the atmosphere associated with your consumption of purchased electricity, heat, steam and cooling. These are indirect emissions that are a consequence of your organisation’s activities, but which occur at sources you do not own or control.
- Scope 3 (Other indirect) GHG emissions: Emissions that are a consequence of your actions, which occur at sources which you do not own or control and which are not classed as Scope 2 emissions. Examples of Scope 3 emissions are business travel by means not owned or controlled by your organisation, waste disposal which is not owned or controlled, or purchased materials.
The following steps were taken:
- National GHG conversion factors were used to produce the Emissions Sankey flowchart by accounting for the estimated GHG emissions produced by the use and consumption of natural resources and minerals (scope 3 upstream), water (scope 3 upstream), fossil fuels (scope 3 upstream), waste (scope 3 downstream) and electricity distribution (scope 1).
- Conversion factors for material use of minerals and energy carriers are applied with conversion factors from the UK GHG conversion factors dataset.
- Fossil fuels – gross caloric values (CVs) used (rather than net CVs), to report the complete combustion of energy carriers.
- When information is not unavailable regarding if a product from the Exiobase or Waste interrogator database is of ‘primary material product’, ‘re-used’, ‘open-loop source’ or ‘closed-loop source’, the conservative assumption was made that the material is of ‘primary material product’, ie. a product made from virgin materials.
- Information on metals is very limited in this database, so data on metals conversion factors is gathered from a journal paper entitled the Life Cycle Assessment on Metals.
- Similarly, for natural resources and foods, conversion factors are taken from the source Our World in Data. Food conversion factors were only accounted for in the stages of “Land use change”, “Animal feed” and “Farm”. Stages of “Processing”, “Transport”, “Packaging” and “Retail” were discarded. The database captures the global average impact of those stages, which means the range of impacts from these stages can vary significantly and introduce error to the model, which is why we have excluded them. In contrast, the stages ‘land use change’, ‘animal feed’ and ‘farm’ are generally modelled for each region in the database, so are much more accurate and less likely to introduce error into the calculations.
A note on conversion factors limitations: For material conversion factors, assuming that materials are of ‘primary material product’, when not specified otherwise, may lead to some conservative scope 3 (upstream and downstream) GHG emission figures.
The following steps were taken:
Whereas the conversion factors are used to represent Scope 2 and 3 emissions, Scope 1 emissions are directly available from National and Regional databases for each sector.
LA data on Scope 1 emissions from each sector group was considered for use in this analysis, however data was missing for the scope of
this analysis regarding Energy generation. Furthermore, distinction between Industry and CD&E is not clear and therefore it is difficult to know the split of emissions between these sectors. As a consequence, national emissions data was used and interpolated for the region.
For Transport emissions - air and shipping transport does not occur within the West Midlands area and is therefore excluded from the analysis.
Step 5: Interpolation
Interpolation was used when regional data for the West Midlands was unavailable or incomplete for use. The following steps were taken:
Interpolation was used when regional data for the West Midlands was unavailable or incomplete for use.
Interpolation for National (UK) to regional (West Midlands) was performed on data for natural resources, minerals, energy and emissions. Interpolation for Midlands to West Midlands was performed on data for water abstraction.
For the sectors of Industry & Commercial, CD&E, Agriculture & Food and Transport, interpolation was done with the use of the national dataset of Gross Value Added (GVA) by sector.
For Housing, interpolation was done with the use of population data.
No GVA information is given for interpolating Energy generation for the region. As a consequence, the GVA’s from other sectors are averaged, and used to interpolate for Energy generation.
A note on interpolation limitations: Interpolating from national to regional may not always be representative of the West Midlands’ actual figures.
Step 6: Measuring products & services and losses
The final steps was to measure products and services as well as losses. The following steps were taken:
- Products & Services are the portion of materials going into each sector which do not end up as waste. They form the Product & Services
that we acquire and use. They are calculated from the difference in materials (natural resources and minerals) entering a sector, and the waste leaving.
- Losses are valuable materials and resources lost during transmission and conversion due to system inefficiencies or failures. Information regarding losses in manufacturing and consumption of products is difficult to obtain. However, this section was included to indicate an area which should be considered.
Overview of Key Findings for Material Analysis:
When looking at the material flow analysis for the region, we can see that:
Overall, the West Midlands region consumes 26,290,000t of minerals (minerals include ores, metals, stone, sand and metals). Most minerals are consumed within the CD&E sector. In comparison, the region consumes 5,700,000t of natural resources, the majority of which goes to the agricultural and food sector.
When looking at outputs from the West Midlands’ analysed sectors, a total of 9,800,000t of waste is recycled or re-used, whilst 7,385,000t of waste still go to landfill or is incinerated. A more detailed analysis of what happens to this waste once it is recycled and re-used should be conducted at local authority level to inform specific waste strategies.
Based on the sectors analysed, 58% of the materials used in the West Midlands economy do not go to landfill or incinerator, which is in line with the UK average.
The greenhouse gas emissions associated with these flows of materials and waste is presented on page 71. Material and waste flows were also analysed for each individual sector and are presented in the next pages of this report.
It is essential that a movement towards a circular economy supports wider decarbonisation efforts. It is why Scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas emissions associated with material flows in the region were measured based on the best available data.
A breakdown of emissions is provided below.
Scope of emissions
Total emissions (tC20/ e/pa)
|Scope 3 - upstream
|Scope 3 - downstream
|Scope 3 - total
The use of materials in the West Midlands accounts for the largest amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the region. Producing an estimated 32,828tCO2e each year, 26,469tCO2e are associated with the use of minerals compared to 6,359tCO2e for the use of natural resources.
It is interesting to note that whereas the CD&E sector is the largest consumer of minerals in the region, the industry and manufacturing sector is responsible for the most greenhouse gas emissions. This is because
the processes used in this sector are more carbon-intensive than those associated with the CD&E sector. More information is provided in the sectoral analysis.
Another significant source of greenhouse gas emissions in the region comes from energy consumption. Emissions associated with the energy consumed by the sectors analysed totals 6,755tCO2e per year. This high-level of greenhouse gas emissions can be explained by the region’s reliance on consuming non-renewable energy.
The West Midlands accounts for only 2% of renewable energy generated in the UK. The region uses 2,120.94 Gwh of renewable energy compared to 28,624.40 Gwh of non-renewable energy (coal, oil and gas). That represents a 1:13 ratio, which is smaller than the UK-wide ratio of 1:7.
The West Midlands ration is lower than the UK-wide ratio due to its lower use of wind power compared to the rest of the UK.
Great carbon savings can be achieved by switching to renewable energy. This routemap supports a wider transition to renewable energy for the West Midlands.
This will require developing local energy plans, investing in enabling digital infrastructure and storage capacity, as well as working with energy providers to invest in local heat and power networks.
The Circular Economy Routemap focuses on resources rather than carbon emissions, whilst recognising the synergies between low-carbon and circularity. Efforts to tackle the climate crisis have predominantly focused on using renewable energy and increasing energy efficiency. These measures only address 55% of greenhouse gas emissions. The remaining 45% of emissions comes from producing our consumer goods such as clothes, cars, toys and electronic goods (see diagram below). These emissions can be tackled by transitioning to a circular economy.
According to the UNEP report, Scope 3 emissions from the production of materials increased from 5GT of CO2e in 1995 to 11 Gt in 2015. The circular economy can help reduce this and contribute to decarbonisation.
Industry and manufacturing
The industry and manufacturing sector is the second largest consumer of minerals, accounting for 15% of mineral consumption in the region (equivalent to 3.3 million tonnes per year).
The region’s industry and manufacturing sector mineral consumption is higher than that of the UK’s industry and manufacturing sector, which accounts for 10%.
The sector also consumes 575,000t of natural resources.
Industrial and manufacturing processes accounts for 22% of water usage in the region, consuming 217 million m3 of water every year.
- 65% of coal consumption in the region is accounted for by the industry and manufacturing sector, which also relies heavily on gas.
An impressive 72% of this sector’s waste does not go to landfill, although further analysis of what happens to the waste is required. It is likely to be low-value recycling and re-use.
Based on this analysis, 1,260,000t out of 1,760,000t of waste is reused or recycled. This could be further increased through industrial symbiosis and re-manufacturing processes.
- 400,000t of waste from the industry and manufacturing sector still ends up in landfill and 51,000t to incineration, which has impacts on the natural environment and greenhouse gas emissions.
Manufacturing of basic iron and steel and ferro-alloys, rubber and plastic products and aluminium are the most carbon-intense industrial and manufacturing activities in the West Midlands.
By adopting circular processes, resource use optimisation and reduction in CO2 emissions can be achieved.
Example of Circular Economy Opportunities
- Industrial symbiosis can be maximised with co-location of industries and creation of sharing platforms. An example is Kalundborg in Denmark.
- Industrial sheds and warehouses can be transformed into sustainable powerhouses as was seen with the NewLogic IIIbuilding in Tilburg, Netherlands. These types of projects could be trialled at Tyseley Energy Park.
- Reprocessing of metals will see an increase in job demand worldwide. For example, reprocessing of secondary lead into new lead, zinc and tin will see 15% job demand growth worldwide by 2030. Reprocessing of secondary previous metals into new precious metals by 11% (See Alutrade case study). Additionally, opportunities around vehicle scrappage schemes could be explored.
- The £250 million battery Gigafactory project combined with a £35 million investment in the electric charging network to develop the battery and charging technology needed, will create 10,100 high value green new jobs and 29,700 jobs a year in construction in the short term. It is an opportunity for the region to become a hub for battery remanufacturing.
- The Gigafactory would also build upon existing projects like RELIB by the Faraday institute or Warwick University’s Centre of Excellence for Batteries. This includes building on the work of the Warwick Manufacturing Group.
- The West Midlands is already pursuing innovations in transport manufacturing such as circular supply chains for luxury cars in Birmingham or Operation Paperclip. The latter aims to advance cutting-edge automotive R&D capability and safeguard or create up to 5,500 jobs across the region.
- Industry and manufacturing is still reliant on dirty fuels. Opportunities exist around transitioning to renewable energy.
Alutrade, West Midlands
Alutrade, an Oldbury-based aluminium recycler, identified a new business opportunity in alternative markets for aluminium recycling. Alutrade started extracting both aluminium and steel from drink cans. As a result, it has diverted more than 6,000t of aluminium waste from the landfill and managed to safeguard jobs when manufacturing decline in the UK is impacting the aluminium industry.
As part of its Repowering the Black Country’s programme, the Black Country is looking to decarbonise its industrial cluster, including re- starting its aluminium industry. The programme aims to create 2,550 new jobs and safeguard 2,200 jobs whilst creating the world’s first zero carbon industrial cluster by 2030.
In this material flow analysis, the housing sector focuses on resource consumption and waste generated by residential households.
Domestic households in the West Midlands account for 42% of gas consumption. Gas is mainly used for space and water heating.
Gas accounts for 56% of non-renewable energy use in the region, compared to 42% for oil and 2% for coal. This is important when considering wider transition away from non-renewable energy sources.
Based on available data, housing accounts for 49% of water usage in the region. Housing consumed 968 m3 of water every year. This high water use signals some potential opportunities in working with residents to decrease their water usage.
- Despite this information, further analysis of water flows in the region, including leaks, is required.
- Looking at household waste flows, 4 million tonnes of waste from households does not go to landfill. The scope of this analysis does not include a more detailed breakdown. It is recommended that further analysis is conducted to determine how this waste is recycled/re-used.
- It is worth noting that 550,000t of waste still goes to landfill and that 1.6 million tonnes of waste from housing is incinerated. This represents 23% of all waste coming from the housing sector. The incineration of waste and its wider impact on the environment needs to be carefully considered.
- The analysis conducted on the housing sector confirms that interventions targeting reduction in consumption patterns as well as waste minimisation from domestic households would be beneficial for the region.
- It is worth noting that WMCA is not a waste authority and therefore waste management systems and policies are under the control of local authorities.
Potential Circular Economy Opportunities
Projects such as the Crystal Palace Library of Things provide incentives and enable communities to reduce their waste and reuse. Reuse platforms and peer-to-peer networks, including Repair Cafés and community hubs are key to strengthen the sharing economy.
For example, if 50% of the West Midlands’ population engaged in reuse networks (similar to Freegle), 2,865 tonnes of waste can be diverted from the landfill every year. These type of sharing platform also create value for their users. In this case, it could unlock up to £2,034,845 a year.
Behavioural change programmes focusing on reducing water and energy demand from domestic households should complement wider system change required to support a transition to a circular economy.
For example, to reduce waste generated by households, wider investment in the region’s waste infrastructure is required. Local authorities will need to put in place these systems that enable residents to reduce their household waste.
Local authorities will also need to review waste-related policies.
In particular, waste segregation, collection and other related policies need to be streamlined between the region’s local authorities.
Local authorities should also align their targets with those set by the national government including achieving zero waste to landfill.
Construction, demolition and excavation
The Construction, Demolition and Excavation (CD&E) sector in the West Midlands is responsible for a staggering quantity of material use and waste generated.
Based on the data collected, the CD&E sector consumes 18 million tonnes of minerals every year. The CD&E sector is the largest consumer of minerals in the region.
It accounts for 82% of the region’s mineral use. This is roughly the same as the UK’s CD&E sector’s consumption, which accounts for 88% of the country’s mineral consumption.
Out of these 18 million tonnes of material used, 10 million tonnes are processed and transformed into ‘outputs’, in this instance buildings and infrastructure.
- 3.5 million tonnes of material does not go to landfill, although further analysis about how these materials are re-used and/or re-processed is required.
However, 4.5 million tonnes of waste still makes its way to landfill every year. This represents 58% of the CD&E waste.
A study by Reconomy concluded that 1 tonne of construction waste can be worth up to £1,000. This means the CD&E sector of the West Midlands is currently wasting £5 billion worth of materials each year by letting it go to the landfill.
Addressing the material consumption and waste generated by the CD&E sector is critical given the extensive growth predicted for the region.
By addressing the large environmental footprint of the CD&E sector, the region can unlock economic and social opportunities whilst reducing this sector’s impact on the natural environment.
Potential Circular Economy Opportunities
Circular design and circular strategies for the construction sector present an excellent opportunity to design out waste and pollution at the onset of the construction process. WMCA’s Zero Carbon Homes Charter already encourages circular design.
It is key to design for longevity, flexibility, adaptability and disassembly, components that have been embedded for example in Port Loop’s sustainability principles.
Beyond how things are built, strategic planning can play an important role in building sustainable communities. Integrated housing, transport and energy systems are required to help build mixed-used developments that promote low-carbon and circular lifestyles.
Adopting circular design principles can also reduce embodied carbon to up to 50%.
By choosing lightweight structures, the amount of materials used in construction can also be greatly reduced.
Considerations also need to be given to using renewable materials, low-embodied carbon materials, carbon capture building materials, natural materials as well as recycled materials.
WMCA could also become a leader in Advanced Manufacturing in Construction (AMC) and Modern Methods of Construction (MMC).
There is an opportunity for WMCA and local authorities to lead on sites they acquire, invest or on public land they develop.
Opportunities also exist for brownfield regeneration and land remediation, particularly with the announcements of the National Brownfield Institute in Wolverhampton.
It is important to capitalise on the University of Wolverhampton’s built environment expertise and the City of Wolverhampton’s ambition to create a National Centre for Sustainable Construction and Circular Economy.
Jack Moody Holding
With the support of NISP, Jack Moody Holding, a construction landscaping and recycling company adopted a new approach to excavated materials. All the material excavated was taken to their site head office for aggregate separation. Recycled material was taken back to the site for refill, reducing the need for virgin material. The company diverted 10,180t of materials away from the landfill and saved 9,267t of virgin material.
Food and Agriculture
A farm-to-gate scope has been used for the food and agricultural sector.
This sector is the largest consumer of natural resources, consuming 4,502,000t of renewable materials each year.
The sector relies heavily on gas, accounting for 21% of gas consumption in the region. In this sector, gas is used mainly in food processing activities.
Gas consumption in the sector dwarfs coal and oil use, representing 99% of the sector’s energy consumption. Once again, this is an important statistic in the context of wider decarbonisation and transitioning away from gas. It will be important to identify the most energy intensive processes within the agricultural supply chain and find alternative renewable sources of energy.
High-quality data on the agricultural and food sector’s water usage could not be obtained. It was determined that the sector uses 14 million m3 of water each year. Water usage will also need to be addressed to reduce the impact of food supply chains on the natural environment.
When looking at waste flows, a large amount of food waste still goes to the landfill. 37% food waste goes to the landfill, which represents 238,000t of food waste. This is likely due to food processing plants not separating organic waste. Organic waste generated on farms does not end up in landfill with 378.000t of food waste is composted.
Several opportunities exist within the agriculture and food system. Targeting large agri-businesses and their supply chains will help reduce energy and water use throughout their processes. Other interventions should also focus on food growing opportunity within local community to reduce emissions associated with food transportation.
Potential Circular Economy Opportunities
Circular food systems do not generate waste with all by- products or surpluses redistributed or re-used as inputs. In a circular economy, organic resources such as those from food by-products, are free from contaminants and can safely be returned to the soil in the form of organic fertiliser.
Some of these by-products provide additional value by creating new food products, fabrics for the fashion industry, or as sources of bio-energy. These cycles regenerate living systems, such as soil, which provide renewable resources, and support biodiversity.
Opportunities also exist in terms of eliminating food waste going to the landfill. There is an opportunity to tie food waste programmes with wider soil health programmes of work.
Opportunities also exist to enhance food packaging and use bio-plastic or other alternatives. This will require investments in waste infrastructure to support processing of bio-plastics. This should build on existing research such as SIMBIO or NOTPLA.
The food system also offers wider opportunities to promote the circular economy and food resilience within local communities. Such opportunities include community hubs, urban agriculture initiatives or community-supported agricultural programmes. An example is Lufa Farms a Montreal food company who are pioneers in the area of urban farming. In 2011, Lufa planted the first seeds in the world’s first commercial rooftop greenhouse.
Encouraging local food growing not only contributes to food resilience and security, it can positively impact health and wellbeing by encouraging healthier diets and it delivers social value to local communities.
The region can also build on the work by UKRI’s Smart Sustainable Plastic Alliance as well as the UK Plastics Pact by WRAP.
Greenacres Farm, Shropshire
Mark Lea owns and farms Greenacres Farm with his wife Liz, in Kemberton in Shropshire. Green Acres is 450 acre organic farm which Mark farms using agro-ecology techniques.
Five Acre Community Farm, Coventry
Becca Stevenson is the grower at Five Acre Community Farm near Coventry, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) scheme.
The transport sector has been analysed as part of this baseline analysis. For the purpose of this analysis, the transport sector here refers to the energy used by vehicles to move people and goods. Vehicle manufacturing and battery development sit within the industry and manufacturing section.
Transport is the biggest consumer of non-renewable energy in the region.
It accounts for 35% of non-renewable energy in the region, which represents 42,939.36 GWh per year.
Transport is the largest consumer of oil, accounting for 84% of oil consumption in the region.
- The transport sector consumes approximately 8,000t of natural resources. This includes additives and bio-fuels, woods and products of wood and cork, as well as products of forestry or logging used for fuel.
- A transition to renewable energy to power the transport system will be key for the West Midlands to reduce its carbon footprint and transition to a circular economy.
Potential Circular Economy Opportunities
The logistics and transport sectors are enablers of the circular economy by enabling better sharing of materials between different companies and/or sectors.
Opportunities also exist in transitioning away from oil and coal and move towards renewable source of energy (biogas, hydrogen etc.). There are some opportunities around using waste heat as fuel for vehicles, which is already being trialled at the Tyseley Energy Park.
It is worth exploring the use of street sweeping machines to recover materials, including precious metals, and to prevent micro plastics from entering the ocean.
Opportunities to adopt first and last mile, fully electric, reverse logistic chains for urban areas should be explored in order to reduce traffic and HGV movements.
It will also be critical to look at innovations within the transport system, including hydrogen refuelling, lightweight rail, reverse logistics and consolidation hubs, autonomous vehicles and light rail freight.
In particular, this Circular Economy Routemap should build on the Very Light Rail Innovation Centre in Dudley as well as Coventry City Council’s project on very light rail. The latter project aims to deliver all of the benefits of trams but at a fraction of the cost in order to help improve air quality and reduce congestion.
Opportunities also exist by shifting from a culture of mass ownership to one of sharing, including sharing modes of transport. Active travel and public transport should be promoted as well as Mobility as a Service. For example, mobility credits could drive changes in people’s transport behaviours and encourage them to use public transport.
Opportunities with vehicle scrappage schemes can help divert car and other vehicle waste away from landfill and encourage a better reuse of materials.
Specific transport opportunities can be explored as part of the review of the Local Transport Plan.
Midlands Future Mobility
Midlands Future Mobility, by Transport for West Midlands, is instrumenting more than 100 miles of roads in Coventry, Solihull and Birmingham for Computer Aided Vehicles (CAV) developers to come and test their new technology and bring their manufacturing operations to the region.
This is helping to create a cluster effect that is establishing the West Midlands as a premier location for CAV-related companies. It will support better logistics and movements across the region, enabling circular business models and a reduction in carbon emissions associated with transport.
Transport for West Midlands is setting up a Future Mobility Zone which seeks to deploy new mobility services and transport innovation, improving journeys across the region.