‘Growth not green’ has become one of the key principles underpinning dealing with government – in other words the waste and recycling industry needs to highlight the benefits it brings to the economy not on environmental wins.
Growth is the government’s primary focus and the reshuffle emphasised that this applies to waste as to everything else: the waste minister position has been replaced by the new role of resource management minister.
It is therefore particularly significant that the latest growth figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the waste sector is in growth despite a worse than expected contraction in manufacturing output.
While overall production output fell 0.5% between July and August 2012, waste collection, treatment and disposal showed a 1.6% growth. Year on year, waste management grew 4% while remediation and other waste services grew 2.1%. These figures are encouraging and show that the waste sector has an important role to play.
The government must play its part by helping to build market confidence for the future. This means setting out its support for anaerobic digestion, solid recovered fuel, biomass and the use of waste timber as part of the renewable energy challenge.
It also means being clear about the regulatory environment – such as metal theft measures – so that businesses in the sector, and particularly small businesses, can make plans for a sustainable future.