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Call to engage communities in waste technologies

A leading expert on waste management has called for greater efforts to engage communities in the benefits of emerging new technologies.

Margaret Bates, professor of sustainable wastes management at the University of Northampton, said the UK waste industry had traditionally been risk averse, relying on landfill and mass burn incineration, but innovation was now called for - and in some cases being delivered.

Writing in MRW, Bates said: “Changes in public perceptions of responsibility for waste will bring about additional benefits, most notably in the area of waste prevention.”

She praised the ministers for giving significant support to certain technologies, in particular anaerobic digestion (AD), but they had “shied away from more potentially controversial solutions”.

“AD alone cannot sufficiently increase diversion to enable us to recover resources. We need integrated infrastructure making the most of the inherent value in our waste,” she said.

“Community objections are a persistent barrier to the development of strategic infrastructure, especially for the waste management sector. We need to increase the awareness and responsibility of the general public so that they become more accepting of new infrastructure and technologies”.

She pointed out that in 2010 the Associate Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group (APSRG) suggested innovative incentives that could give local communities a stake in the development of infrastructure: community ownership, utility discounts, community funds, district heating and design.

“There are new technologies being developed and refined to enable us to deal sustainably with our waste,” she said. “But to make the best use of these we need to ensure that the public understand them and are engaged with them”.

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