RESOURCES THEME ACTION PLAN

Most people around the world now live in urban areas with towns and cities being the major drivers of carbon emissions. But cities and towns, like Reading, are also where people meet, mingle and innovate, and are therefore central to developing positive responses to climate change.

Resources, consumption and climate change

Whether it’s a car or a sandwich, everything we buy, consume and discard has a carbon footprint. This may be direct, for example the energy used by electrical appliances, or indirect, such as the energy consumed in mining raw materials, shipping parts and products, fuelling production and processing items discarded as waste. At the other end of a product’s life, direct carbon impacts include the energy used to collect, transport and process waste or greenhouse gases released by the decomposition of biodegradable waste in landfill sites, while indirect carbon impacts include the need to mine more scarce virgin materials.

WEEE Man

In our consumer society, we have become accustomed to buying whatever we need, whenever we want it, and discarding or replacing it on a whim. These patterns of consumption are well established and deeply embedded into society; indeed, our entire economic model relies on them. At the same time the consequences of unbridled consumerism are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. There is plenty of very visible evidence of how the products we consume, and the way we use and discard them, cause deforestation, habitat destruction, pollution and increased emissions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also influenced our waste habits for better and for worse: it was reported that, as people were taking time to pre-plan shopping and be more creative with ingredients, food waste dropped during the lockdown16. But the need to wear masks in public and concerns about hygiene also led to a resurgence in single-use products and associated litter.

So, the question for this theme is what can we do now to ensure that succeeding generations have the opportunity to live well whilst using fewer scarce resources and creating less waste?

Progress to date

  • Reading, through its Re3 partnership, has developed excellent facilities for recycling plastic, paper, card, metals and glass. Recycling is, however, well below the national average and too many recycling bins are diverted to general waste due to contamination
  • Collection infrastructure is being improved so that people are encouraged to recycle more with domestic food waste collections to start in 2021
  • Reading has reduced the proportion of domestic waste which is sent to landfill to 17% (April-Sept 2020 figures) and a large proportion of domestic general waste is incinerated with energy captured to generate electricity
  • Refill Reading was launched by Transition Town Reading in 2016 to help independent shops overcome the costs of a reusable cup scheme and has since been expanded
  • In 2019 Caversham became the first community in Reading to start working towards Surfers Against Sewage Plastic Free Community accreditation
  • In 2019 Reading Borough Council passed a motion committing the Council to eliminate wherever possible single use plastic from Council premises and commissioned services17.

woman holding shopping bags

Priorities on the pathway to net zero

The top priorities for the resources theme over the coming five years are:

  • To reduce the amount we throw away, including by encouraging more initiatives that offer people the option to rent, share and reuse as alternatives to single-use and disposability
  • To recycle more of what we discard, using the infrastructure that already exists and making targeted interventions to reduce contamination and address gaps in provision
  • To strategically identify products and systems that can be redesigned to make it easier to keep materials circulating at their highest value – developing Reading’s ‘circular economy’

The long-term goal is for Reading to become a ‘zero waste’, circular economy. To achieve near ‘zero waste’ to landfill or incineration, it is necessary to establish markets based on the value of materials that would otherwise be considered as waste. If we cannot reduce or reuse materials before they become waste, the first step is to get better at separating what can be recycled. As well as a continued focus on moving towards zero waste in the household collection waste stream, attention also needs to be given to commercial waste, including construction and other industrial processes.

Even after reducing waste and getting better at reusing and recycling what is left, there will still be some residual waste. The challenge then becomes to redesign the systems of production and use to avoid these materials reaching the waste stream. For all materials, the aim has to be to keep them circulating for as long as possible at the highest possible quality and value. Applying this principle opens up innovations like peer-to-peer lending and sharing, as well as repair and reuse.

The action plan includes three strands that focus on experimenting at a system level, with actions designed to support behaviour change. These are chosen as iconic, high profile initiatives that have the potential to inspire and galvanise wider engagement.

  • Plastic Free Reading: with the support of the Council and businesses there is an opportunity to encourage others to follow Caversham’s lead in working towards plastic-free community status, possibly leading to Plastic Free Reading accreditation for the town as a whole
  • Climate friendly food: food is estimated to account for around 20% of UK emissions. Food waste needs to be minimised and food waste residues returned to the soil locally where possible. Eating local, seasonal produce will reduce emissions from production and transport. And there is growing recognition that moving to a more plant-based diet can both reduce emissions and improve health. While it is beyond the remit of this action plan to dictate what people eat, we can support and enable people to make informed choices about diet
  • Zero Waste Festivals: a growing number of festivals have made sustainability a central principle. Fields of abandoned tents stick in the public memory but there is much good practice within Reading’s wide range of festivals. We plan to work with local festival organisers to explore opportunities to reduce waste. Reading Festival has already set itself the target of ending the sale of single-use plastic at its festival by 2021. But we are inviting them to go further and set a goal to become zero waste within five years. The aspiration of this theme is for Reading to become known as a town that champions zero waste at festivals

Underpinning this theme is the need for effective engagement and communication. The action plan therefore includes a number of initiatives that focus on the provision of information, education and skills to support people to make informed and responsible purchasing and consumption choices.

Key adaptation issues for production, consumption and waste

Historic carbon emissions are already having an effect on our climate. For Reading this means adapting to the possibility of disruption to global supply chains, with the manufacture and supply of food, clothes and electronic equipment particularly exposed. The best way to increase our resilience to these impacts is to move away from the ‘take-make-waste’ approach to production and towards a more circular
one, where resources are valued and circulated for as long as possible. There are also opportunities for innovation and business growth, with recognised growth in an “adaptation economy” in the UK and worldwide, as new products and services come to market in response to adaptation-related opportunities.

Resources Theme Action Plan: our aim for 2025 is that Reading is on track to become a zero waste town by 2030, is actively innovating to find new ways of using resources more efficiently and thereby minimising our contribution to climate change. To facilitate this transition, by 2025 it is easy for everybody to access information and services to help them find ways to reduce waste and repurpose things they no longer need.

NB: Some of the actions included in the action plans below, and the scale and pace at which they can be progressed, will be subject to the prevailing national policy context and/or the provision of additional powers and resources by central government, as made clear in Reading’s climate emergency declaration (see section 3.2 above).

Action plans

Action name Description Targets and measure/milestone Target
completion date
Delivery partners
R1
Food: Reducing
domestic food waste
» Establish baseline and set meaningful targets for reducing domestic
food waste
» Adopt the Love Food, Hate Waste toolkit from WRAP and drive
behaviour change through communications
Links: Business
Baseline research completed by March 2021
Communications programme in place, targets set
and tracked annually from July 2021
Q1 2021
Q3 2021 onwards
Reading Borough Council
(lead)
University of Reading
(research)
R2
Food: Reducing
commercial food waste
» Establish baseline and set meaningful targets for reducing
commercial food waste
» Create a programme combining reduction measures, well-managed
charity donations and best outcome waste processing
» Collaborative programme by and for business
Links: Community, Business, Education
Baseline research completed by September 2021
Communications programme in place, targets set
and tracked annually from January 2022
Commercial food waste collection from TBC
Q3 2021
Q1 2022
TBC
RCAN (lead)
Reading UK CIC
University of Reading
(research)
Connect Reading
Waste/recycling
contractors
Reading Borough Council
Commercial parties
R3
Food:
Reducing food
waste in schools
» Establish baseline and set meaningful targets for reducing
food waste in schools
» Create a programme combining reduction measures, well-managed
charity donations and best outcome waste processing
» Commercial food waste collection to be introduced
by Reading BC for schools
Links: Community, Business, Education
Baseline research completed by September 2021
Communications programme in place, targets set
and tracked annually from January 2022
Commercial food waste collection from TBC
Q3 2021
Q1 2022
TBC
RCAN (lead)
University of Reading
(research)
Reading Borough Council
Commercial waste
partners
R4
Other:
Clothing
» Establish baseline and set meaningful targets for reducing the amount
of clothing wasted
» Introduce programmes to divert unwanted clothing from general waste
through various means including donation, swapping, sharing, leasing/
rental, etc.
» Investigate the potential for emulating the WearNext project pioneered
in New York
Links: Business, Community
Establish baseline and identify areas for
improvement
Publish programme of targeted interventions
Q1 2021
Q4 2021
Reading Circular
Economy Club (lead)
Reading UK CIC
Connect Reading
Re3 (baseline data)
R5
Other:
Resource
efficiency
» Publish easy to access and understand best practice guidance covering
all common household purchases (in and out of home)
» Focus on extended life, zero waste, energy efficiency
» Signpost established labels and standards, advisory bodies, etc.
» Establish communications programme to reinforce behaviour change
Links: Communications and Engagement
Guidance published and communications
programme launched
Q2 2021 ReadingCAN (lead)
Re3
Reading UK CIC
Action name Description Targets and measure/milestone Target
completion date
Delivery partners
R6
Reuse and repair:
Establish a definitive
information source on
reuse and repair
» Compile and maintain a comprehensive directory of reuse and repair
resources in Reading, and encourage new ones, especially through
social enterprise
» Include information resources like ifixit and services like Reading
Repair Café and Reading Bicycle Kitchen
» Establish communications programme to reinforce behaviour change
Links: Community
Directory published, update process and
communications programme in place by April 2021
Q2 2021 ReadingCAN (lead)
Organisations offering
reuse and repair services
Reading UK CIC
Transition Towns
Re3
R7
Sharing, renting and
swapping
» Compile and maintain a comprehensive directory of sharing, renting
and swapping resources, and encourage new ones
» Include peer to peer systems like Freegle, rental and “as a service”
systems, charity outlets and platform services like Too Good to Go
Links: Community
Directory published, update process and
communications programme in place
Q2 2021 ReadingCAN (lead)
Organisations offering
sharing, rental and
swapping services
Transition Towns
Action name Description Targets and measure/milestone Target
completion date
Delivery partners
R8
Food: Kerbside food
waste recycling
» Maximise take-up of kerbside food waste recycling when introduced
» Appropriate annual targets to be set in conjunction with Reading BC/
Re3
» Communications programme required to drive behaviour change
Links: Community, Education
Increase Reading’s recycling rate by 7% through
food waste collection
Q4 2021 Reading Borough Council
Re3
R9
Other: Glass
» Establish a baseline and set meaningful targets for increasing
glass collection
» Improve access to glass recycling facilities for residents
» Focus on areas with high density housing/low car ownership
» Work with hospitality industry to introduce colour segregated
glass collection
Links: Community, Business
Establish baseline and identify areas for
improvement
Publish plan to introduce improved provision for
residents and businesses, including targets for
collection
Q1 2021
2023
Reading Borough Council
(Domestic lead)
Reading UK CIC
(Business lead)
UoR (research)
Waste/recycling
contractors
R10
Other: Kerbside
recycling
» Maximise kerbside collection and minimise contamination
» Increase awareness of what can go in kerbside recycling
» Implement communications programme to encourage and improve
confidence in recycling
» Set annual targets to improve collection/contamination rates
Links: Community
Increase in Reading’s overall recycling rate by 4%
by October 2021 arising from efforts to reduce
contamination
Q4 2021 Reading Borough Council
Re3
R11
Plastics: Plastic-Free
Reading
» Continued implementation of single-use plastic-free pledge by RBC
and sharing the learning
» Encouraging adoption of the Surfers Against Sewage Plastic-Free
Community methodology and tools by communities, businesses
and schools
» Replicate Plastic Free Caversham concept to achieve the critical mass
of groups, schools and businesses required to secure Plastic Free
accreditation for Reading
Links: Business, Community, Education
Reading BC to share own lessons in becoming
plastic free
Caversham to secure accreditation as a Plastic
Free Community, with first schools and businesses
accredited
Plastic-Free Community accreditation gained by at
least one other Reading community
Set annual targets for the number/percentage of
schools and businesses to be Plastic-Free
Q3 2021
Q3 2021
Q4 2021
Q3 2022
Reading Borough Council
(Council and schools lead)
Reading UK CIC
(business lead)
Reading Business CAN
R12
Plastics: Climatefriendly diet
» Publish reliable and authoritative information on how to eat more
sustainably
» Focus on dietary choices, sustainable sourcing, child nutrition
» Guidance for caterers as well as individuals
Links: Community, Business, Health, Nature, Education
Best practice identified and guidance prepared
Communications programme developed and
campaign launched
Q1 2021
Q3 2021
University of Reading
Subject-matter specialists
(e.g. breastfeeding, food
growing networks)
R13
Plastics: Zero waste
and circular festivals
» Work with Reading’s festival organisers to develop resourcestewardship systems to reduce waste at festival venues (and
campsites, where appropriate)
» Explore different approaches to engage and encourage organisers,
vendors and festival goers in addressing waste
» Establish baseline and set meaningful targets for reducing waste and
maximising recovery of resources
» Engage with Reading Festival to understand the challenge of campsite
waste and explore opportunities to reduce unrecyclable tent waste
» Connect with and draw on the experiences of Green Deal Circular
Festivals and other sustainable events bodies (A Greener Festival,
Julie’s Bicycle, Vision 2025)
Links: Business
Work with ReadingUK CIC local festival organisers
group to understand the challenges and share best
practice
Collect baseline data
Co-produce programme of knowledge sharing and
local collaboration
All of Reading’s festivals to have a statement or
page describing their approach to sustainability on
their website
Zero tents to be left behind on site at Reading
Festival
Q3 2020
Q1 2021
Q2 2021
Q3 2021
Q3 2025
Reading Circular
Economy Club (lead)
Reading UK CIC
University of Reading
(research)
Waste/recycling
contractors
Festival organisers
R14
Circular economy:
Establish Reading
Circular Economy Club
to grow the Circular
Economy in Reading
» Establish Reading Circular Economy Club – part of international
network of Circular Economy Clubs
» Peer to peer information exchange and networking for businesses/
organisations
» Develop resource exchange to create closed resource loops, reducing
use of virgin resources and finding new uses for waste products
Links: Business
Reading Circular Economy Club set up
Regular scheduled meetings and events established
and publicised
Resources exchange set up and operational
Complete
Q4 2020
Q2 2021
Reading Circular
Economy Club (lead)
Reading CAN/Reading
Business CAN
Re3

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