Future of waste debated by industry leaders
At this year’s RWM show at the Birmingham NEC arena Industry leaders came together to debate the future of waste and recycling.
The Future of Waste panel, chaired by The Guardian’s Fiona Harvey, saw the experts discuss the ‘big’ issues the sector should address in the future. These issues involved the role of incineration, consumer demand, end of life regulations and the uniform targets for recycling across Europe.
The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) chief executive officer Steve Lee, Friends of the Earth senior resource use campaigner Dr Michael Warhurst, Closed Loop’s Chris Dow, and SITA’s external affairs director Gev Eduljee all took to the Leaders Arena with different views on the direction in which the industry is heading.
The panel also consisted of Advanced Plasma Power’s Rolf Stein, and independent consultant Jiggy Lloyd who took part in the debate.
Each panel member was asked for their separate standpoint on the waste and recycling industry’s current place in the UK today. Introducing his philosophy to the listeners, Steve Lee said:
“We are still a coping industry and because of who we are we are not allowed to stop coping. I believe in action at all points of the spectrum. I believe in strong government, strong leadership, and big ideas.”
Regarding the role of incineration, predominantly the extent to which the UK should be using the technology, Mr Eduljee stated that the era of energy from waste was drawing to a close; while Mr Chris Dow went on to say that it has become a victim of recycling.
The export of waste for incineration, Mr Ellard argued, would “drop to nil” over the following two years as the construction of UK plants continues to expand. Responding Dr Warhurst’s comments that there were superior solutions to incineration, Mr Ellard stated that there will always be material left over that cannot be recycle.
Ms Harvey also put forward to the panel whether or not a widespread Europe recycling target was possible in the future.
Dr Warhurst, who argued in favour, said:
“The 50% recycling target is not for all countries, there needs to be different timelines and pathways. We need high targets and to realise some countries will take longer to reach them than others.”
However, CIWM’s Mr Lee replied:
“To a single tier Europe I would say no. It is stupid expecting Bulgaria to get away from their 95% reliance on landfill in the next few years.”
Regarding the subject of recycling rates, all panellists unanimously decided that Flanders, which recently attained a 70% combined rate, was a good case of what high performance targets could in fact accomplish, while Mr Stein added that it was already paving the way for advanced plasma technology via gas extraction.
Summing up, Mr Lee said:
“We need to generate information because it’s not going to come from government. We need electronic duty of care. We cannot have the current relationship with our customers, we have to be talking about product design, and we have to talk to them about resource design and resource efficiency.”