A new paper highlights the importance of bringing circular economy principles into the mainstream of infrastructure procurement.
A white paper led by AECOM and published by the Major Infrastructure – Resource Optimisation Group (MI-ROG) identifies the need for a consistent approach to procurement across major infrastructure projects in the transition to ‘circular economy’ principles - seeking the maximum life from resources, extracting maximum value, and subsequently recovering materials.
However it argues that cross-sector collaboration is essential to achieving this.
The paper, Embedding Circular Economy Principles into Infrastructure Operator Procurement Activities, recommends including procurement criteria focused on the circular economy from the outset of infrastructure schemes.
Robert Spencer, AECOM sustainability director and MI-ROG chairman, said: ‘With ambitious new infrastructure projects and major renewal programmes in the pipeline, the UK is in an ideal position to begin its transition to the circular economy.
‘Procurement is a critical stage of this process but existing technical standards can stifle innovation. There are ample opportunities to identify changes in procurement procedures, but mainstreaming circular economy principles will only be achieved through cross-sector collaboration.’
The paper says there is a growing interest in the circular economy, driven by a recognition of the need for greater resilience in infrastructure supply chains.
It recommends considering an approach to procurement that goes beyond price to evaluate the ‘whole life value’ of materials throughout commissioning, maintenance and disposal, but ‘recognises that it is unrealistic to expect large infrastructure schemes to take on the risk of wholly new materials or methods with no track record’.
The paper advises infrastructure operators starting out on circular economy initiatives, of the importance of considering the circular economy as ‘a natural progression from pre-existing infrastructure initiatives, commitments and practices, such as resource efficiency, revenue generation through material sales, and reducing waste disposal to landfill’.
AECOM said the paper was the culmination of discussions about the risks and opportunities associated with the circular economy within MI-ROG – a forum with participants including some of the UK’s largest infrastructure owners and operators such as Highways England and Network Rail.