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Government must join up better on waste

CIWM’s Steve Lee says we need to work together a little better if we are to create a green economy that benefits us all

We will shortly be gathering at the NEC for the RWM with CIWM annual event, proving once again that our industry is a dynamic and important sector.

We will spend the three days talking about conserving and recovering valuable resources and putting them back to work in the ‘green economy’, one of the few areas showing real growth. But are we getting the right messages back from government?

Don’t get me wrong, local authorities’ role in collecting waste and engaging the public in prevention and recycling is extremely important – but on the whole they’ve got the hang of it. We all know that quality is important, so let’s put whatever measures and mechanisms are needed in place and move on.

Because what the Coalition Government – and all the UK governments – should really be focusing on is ensuring that waste is treated as an economic development advantage.

It should be about providing a framework that allows business to better capitalise on the value of our secondary materials and waste-derived energy products, about recognising that sending them abroad might not be desirable in the longer term, about mapping market demand and incentivising uptake.

These are certainly priorities that CIWM will be aiming to bring to the attention of the new environment secretary Owen Paterson.

Early on in the Coalition’s life, Defra, DECC and BIS hosted a breakfast briefing to show how well they were working together. What can I say? The croissants were nice.

While I recognise the devolved governments’ right to make their own decisions on waste and resource efficiency, and I applaud them for their ambitious plans, we may need to work together a little better if we are to create a green economy that benefits us all.

Steve Lee, chief executive, CIWM

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