Talking Dirty – An Environmental Blog: Resourcing the Future 2015 Conference – Day 2.
This is my second conference edition of ‘Talking Dirty’ from the ‘Resourcing the Future 2015 Conference – Austerity or Ambition?’ in London.
Day Two – Circular Economy!
Richard Lochhead, MSP proved to be as passionate about the sector as Rory Stewart MP was on the first day of the conference. He emphasised the need to learn from other countries that are already performing better than the UK (something which Scotland is already doing with its ‘Zero Waste’ programme). The main part of his speech was dedicated to the announcement of a new ‘Charter for more consistent recycling’ which all local authorities will be invited to sign up to. The Charter is the key recommendation of the Zero Waste Taskforce, a joint initiative between the Scottish Government and Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and will include a commitment from local government to adhere to a set of principles on the design, operation and communication of services and policies on issues such as contamination. If there is full buy-in then this could reduce the impact of some of the issues facing the industry in Scotland, of which contamination is a significant one.
Following the Minister we again heard from a number of experts in the sector in panel sessions and presentations over the day. The first panel session of the morning focused on the prevalent issue of waste crime and some of the conclusions were:
- There is a need for much better collaboration amongst HMRC, the environmental regulatory bodies (i.e. the Environment Agency and SEPA) and businesses in the industry (who will often have more knowledge of the perpetrators) in order for waste crime to be tackled effectively;
- The UK needs to take collective action against those committing serious waste crime;
- Measures such as landfill tax do work to reduce the problem when they are strictly enforced.
The second morning panel session looked at collaborative approaches by businesses to maximise the scope for moving waste up the waste hierarchy but discussion stretched far beyond that to include:
- The importance of good risk management strategies to ensure the lowest insurance premia;
- The need for business to bring in knowledge from outside in order to innovate effectively; and
- A debate around the quality of waste data available to the sector (and the regulators) and how to improve that.
Aptly (given other discussions in Europe on the subject happening on the same day), the afternoon sessions were dedicated to the Circular Economy and what the focus of any package implemented should be in the UK. Lots of opinions were proffered by those with expert knowledge on the subject, such as: Dr Liz Goodwin, Chief Executive of WRAP who has been very vocal on what she thinks Government needs to include in an effective package and Gev Eduljee, Director of External Affairs for Suez Environnement who, in my view made the most sensible statement of the conference: “let’s be more imaginative in closing the skills’ gap in the sector by drawing from those with expertise in other sectors”. The importance of re-use and re-manufacturing in addition to recycling made the delegates question the ‘fitness for purpose’ of the waste hierarchy altogether and the need to re-think the targets in place and the categories of targets was raised yet again.
Overall on day two, there were a number of important issues which spilled over from the first day, including:
- Ensuring that resources have a value, not just to industry, but in the public’s opinion as well – particularly in relation to food waste;
- The need for action to be taken quickly in implementing new policy and strategy;
- Communication is key! Some of the problems encountered in Scotland (such as the contamination issue mentioned above) are due, in substantial part, to a lack of or poor communication amongst Government bodies, industry and the public.
‘Twitteralley’ as it was named was in full swing again (although with not quite as many participants as the first day) – view my twitter feed here.
All in all it was a great conference, well attended and full of lively and interesting discussion and debate over both days. Worth coming down to the ‘big smoke’ for!
I’ll be back soon and in the meantime, if any of you have any views, comments or suggestions of specific ‘dirt’ that you would like to see discussed here then please get in touch – email, phone, twitter or linked-in. I’ll be back with another blog post again soon!