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All aboard the Defra merry-go-round

Here we go again. Every year, we hope the Defra minister responsible for our sector will stay in post long enough to make a difference. Every year, we are disappointed.

Sure enough, following the recent Cabinet reshuffle Rory Stewart has been moved to international development. We can hope that his short time at Defra will have given him the insight to help other countries deal with their waste – I’m sure the WasteAid UK charity will be happy to engage with him in any way.

We had thought Stewart’s legacy would be the ‘harmonisation’ of household collection methods in the UK. Guidance was due to be launched on 20 July but then cancelled because of the reshuffle. I understand Defra officials remain keen on WRAP’s proposals and they will see the light of day eventually.

In the meantime, new Defra minister Therese Coffey is expected to replace Stewart. She has already spoken in Parliament on food waste on behalf of the department.

It will also be interesting to see how far the new environment secretary Andrea Leadsom engages with resource efficiecy. As a Northamptonshire MP she supported constituents opposed to proposals for a wind farm in her area, while being supportive in general of renewable energy sources.

The proof will be the extent to which she responds to those such as ABDA who fear that deployment of small-scale anaerobic digestion is collapsing because of current policies. It blames Government policy decisions and investment uncertainty.

There is nothing particular about the enviroment department that dictates such frequent changes but imagine what progress there might have been with an engaged secretary of state in post for six years, as the new PM did at the Home Office.

What does not change, luckily, is the annual fixture that is the National Recycling Awards - and the event this year was celebrated on 6 July. The weather was lovely and the only real distraction was the Wales-Portugal game in the European football championships. The evening would have been perfect if our ‘Twitter Wall’ had been able to report a Welsh win.

The winner of each NRA category is selected by a panel of judges, save for one. The ‘editor’s award’ is my personal choice and this year I was pleased to present it to Steve Lee, the departing chief executive of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management. Lee looks back on his 13 years at the helm in an interview in the next issue of MRW.

If you were there on the night, I hope you enjoyed the event – by all means drop me an email if you have any feedback (robin.latchem@emap.com).

The current issue of MRW is the last one before our special RWM issue which will be published on 26 August. It will also be the first of our bigger, monthly issues with an emphasis on analysis, insight and opinion.

For those who value our news service, sign up to the special email newsletters here on the MRW website.

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