London waste and recycling board (LWaRB) chair James Cleverly has told the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management conference that the UK is not yet ready to make the leap from waste to resource.
Speaking on the “Question time: from waste to resource, is the UK ready to make the leap?” panel discussion, Cleverly said: “Unfortunately, the short answer is no. There’s a huge amount of political and industry will to make this happen. But what I’ve found is that the phrase ‘waste to resource’ was first used in that way the mid 1970s, entered popular usage in the 1990sand yet we’re still having these conversations now.
“To really make this shift, we have to start properly valuing what we currently call waste and to really strip value out. We are not a million miles away, it can be done, but we’re not there at the moment.”
Viridor chief executive Colin Drummond disagreed, he said: “The UK waste industry is not only ready, but has already made the leap to treating waste as a resource. For Viridor, we’ve invested about £500m over the past 10 years in recycling, about £300m in renewable energy generation. We’ve seen the amount we recycle grow twenty-fold and the renewable energy generation grow five-fold and our profits have been growing 20% per annum since 2000.”
Aldersgate Group chairman Peter Young said that one of the barriers to moving from waste to resource was the challenge of preventing waste in the first place.
He said: “Our total waste production is only falling at about 1% per annum when we’re in a recession; I think that’s pretty pathetic. The real challenge is that we’ve got to design out waste, set targets and business models that really work and don’t encourage us to throw things away, that is as much as behavioural challenge as it is a technical barrier.”