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Annual waste and resource management review - 2018

With 50 deals, 2017 was a record year for M&A activity across the waste sector. Especially among the bigger players, acquisitions have been strategic initiatives aimed at adapting to market changes rather than chasing growth alone. 

Looking beyond individual deals it is possible to identify some key trends to drive future activity. In particular, the heightened public interest in recycling initiatives as well as growing recognition of waste’s potential to generate fuel will be influential across this year.

The waste sector is a major driving force in the UK economy. Employing over 70,000 workers and with an annual turnover of at least £9 billion1, it has a major impact on Britain’s commercial, political and social systems. However, with the start of the Brexit transition period underway, the prevailing mood continues to be one of uncertainty. We take a positive and proactive approach, by looking at the future trends on the horizon for the waste and resource management sector, and highlight key opportunities to take advantage of as businesses look ahead to 2019.

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The industry has been increasingly focused on joining the circular economy through tapping into the manufacturing ecosystem, specifically in recycling. There is a growing recognition that the UK has to become more self-sufficient with regards to material management. China’s limit on plastic imports and the Brexit-driven uncertainty of the RDF export market have created a situation where the UK would make an ideal material processing region, but the facilities aren’t up to the task.

However, changing this requires a real commitment to recycling and recovery, focusing on the country’s ability to improve the quality of waste materials which can be reprocessed effectively. The good news is the waste industry is responding.

These trends will only become more prevalent in the next few years. One example is the rise in electric car use2 which will increase demand for lithium batteries, and as the UK cannot sustainably continue to buy batteries from overseas vendors, recycling of battery materials will need to play a greater part3. This underlines how the circular economy will have a huge role to play in increasing the UK’s self-reliance in a difficult global economy long into the future.

That makes it crucial for the waste market to grow more confident about the part it plays in the manufacturing cycle. In doing so, it can make a much wider contribution to the circular economy, driving a dynamic and growing economy in a post-Brexit world.


  1. Waste management in the UK: investment opportunities, Department for International Trade, 19 February 2014
  2. ‘Electric car market statistics’, Next Green Car, 5 January 2018
  3. ‘Recycling & The Rise Of The Electric Car’, CIWM Journal, 26 January 2018
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