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Birmingham waste efficiency scheme exported around the world

A Birmingham-based manufacturing scheme described as “WD40 for the economy” has proved such a success it is set to be rolled out across Europe.

The National Industrial Symbiosis Progamme has been credited with creating and safeguarding 3,125 West Midlands jobs, generating £330 million in sales and saving £195 million in costs in the region since it was set up in 2005.

It is already being copied by governments in China and Brazil seeking to cut down on industrial waste and help companies find new ways to make money.

And now a new EU initiative on waste means it is set to provide a model for all 27 member states who are being recommended to launch a similar programme.

The scheme brings together manufacturing and industrial companies so they can swap waste materials which can then be reused profitably by others.

For example, NISP has just helped a foam factory in Dudley find a use for its offcuts – to make into rubble sacks – which has generated a £35,000 cost saving, diverted 4,200 cubic metres of foam from landfill and created one job.

Another link-up involves Leamington Spa-based supplier of components for vehicle interiors Grupo Antolin, which was previously sending to landfill 1,367 tonnes of its headliner trim used for the interior roof section of the car.

NISP introduced the firm to another of its members, Mid UK, which is able to process the trim and turn it into fuel which can be used to power cement kilns.

But it’s not just about waste, the programme also encourages companies to share other assets, logistics and expertise.

NISP chief executive and founder Peter Laybourn said he often found it difficult to describe NISP’s activities in an elevator pitch.

“The closest I have got is saying the programme is like WD40 as it just makes things work better.

“What happens in the economy is there is a market failure of information.

“We provide that additional piece of information that makes things happen.In that sense we’re like WD40 that makes the economy work more efficiently. A lot of people think we’re just about waste but actually it’s all about green growth, innovation and job creation as well.”

Mr Laybourn said a new initiative within the European Union on the subject of waste and resource efficiency had meant NISP had come under the spotlight in Brussels as an example of a successful project to be replicated across Europe.

He said: “In September the EU has got to produce a resource efficiency roadmap for Europe.

“Effectively the EU is going to recommend in September that all countries adopt an industrial symbiosis programme.”

Thanks to NISP, which is run by Kings Norton-based firm International Synergies, Birmingham is developing a reputation for being a centre of excellence for industrial symbiosis.

The city will host an international conference on the subject in June next year, attracting delegates from around the world.

Mr Laybourn said: “This comes form a background where ten years ago nobody had heard of industrial symbiosis – it was just an academic term and now it’s being implemented all over the world based on the model we’ve developed here in the West Midlands.”

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