Southern Region Waste Management Office
Knowledge Sharing in Sustainable Manufacturing
Encouraging Manufacturing Businesses in adopting the Waste Hierarchy, Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy Principles
Ireland’s three Regional Waste Management Plans each include an objective to encourage the transition from a waste management economy to a green circular economy. With that in mind, the Regions organise business network events, and invite companies to share their success stories. Businesses are also directed to national support programmes and other initiatives such as EcoMerit certification. On average, the 105 certified EcoMerit members have achieved annual savings of €8,000 in their first year in the programme, and average annual carbon reduction of 70 tonnes. This success story has potential to be replicated in more manufacturing and service sector companies.
Introduction / The Challenge
The three Waste Management Planning Regions in Ireland are as follows:
- Connacht – Ulster Region
- Southern Region
- Eastern – Midlands Region.
Each region has developed its Regional Waste Management Plan 2015-2021, which on behalf of the region’s local authorities, follows the principles of Ireland’s waste policy ‘A Resource Opportunity’ (2012). European policy on the Waste Hierarchy, Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe, and EU Circular Economy Package are all relevant to the strategic objectives, which are common to each of the three regional plans.
Strategic Objective C of the Southern Region Waste Management Plan1 states:
The Region will encourage the transition from a waste management economy to a green circular economy to enhance employment and increase the value recovery and recirculation of resources.
This objective includes the policy to encourage business and industry to implement resource efficient principles including the use of clean technologies and preventing waste at source, with a particular focus on small to medium enterprises (SMEs). The challenge is to shift the approach to include not just recycling and recovery, but also waste prevention, resource efficiency, i.e. making more with less, and the circular economy where resources are used and reused to optimum value.
Good practices through business networks
The waste regions’ links with business associations have proven effective in reaching many individual businesses. Any event that the Regions organise with business associations, we endeavour to include at least one case study presentation that highlights both the monetary as well as the environmental benefits of good practice.
Supply Network Shannon (SNS) is example of a business network – it is an association of companies mainly in the electronics and medical device sectors. The network has run projects under the EPA’s previous Cleaner Greener Production Programme and the current Green Enterprise programme. They also participated in an Eco Industrial Network project with University of Limerick. SNS is also promoter and co-ordinator of Next Level Skillnet.
Tipperary Green Business Network (TGBN) is an example of a green business network. They run regular sustainability events including site visits and their conference ‘Moving towards a Circular Economy’ in October 2018.
The Regional Waste Management Offices refer businesses to national support programmes, such as those run the Environmental Protection Agency under the National Waste Prevention Programme (NWPP)2, Enterprise Ireland and Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. The regions link also with third level and other research institutions to keep up to date with the latest concepts in sustainability.
EcoMerit3 Environmental Certification helps SMEs set up an environmental management system in order to meet specific criteria relating to materials, energy, water and general environmental management. EcoMerit is the initiative of Econcertive and is governed by a steering group comprising representatives from the supporting partners including the three waste regions.
Case studies and the number of businesses participating in specific programmes can be quantified, but this information can also have a further positive influence on the wider business sector, which is not so readily measured.
From its inception in 2009, EcoMerit has now expanded nationwide with the support of the three waste management regions. With a current membership of 146, there are now 105 EcoMerit certified sites in the country. The average annual Year 1 savings for certified members is almost €8,000. This is accompanied with annual average carbon savings of 9.2%, or average of 70 tonnes carbon savings per annum per business. With potential for extrapolation to other SMEs, this could contribute significantly to mitigating Ireland’s climate change challenge.
Creating environmental awareness and supporting behavioural change within the workplace continues to be a challenge. This is particularly evident regarding the availability of the required resources to implement resource efficiency actions and move further towards a circular economy.
- Southern Region Waste Management Plan 2015-2021:http://southernwasteregion.ie/content/southern-region-waste-management-plan-2015-2021-associated-reports
- EPA’s National Waste Prevention Programme: Towards a Resource Efficient Ireland http://www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/waste/prevention/reports/towardsaresourceefficientireland.html
- EcoMerit Programme: www.ecomerit.ie
About Margaret Murphy:
Margaret is Resource Efficiency Officer with the Southern Region Waste Management Office. The office is funded by the ten local authorities in the region and promotes waste prevention as a priority.
Margaret’s qualifications include an M.Sc. in Environmental Protection. Previously from an industrial background, her work with businesses in the Southern Waste Region involves promoting the benefits of Resource Efficiency and the Circular Economy.