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Civil engineers criticise policy leadership of waste sector

The Government has been urged to show stronger leadership in the waste sector in a wide-ranging review of national infrastructure.

The State of the Nation: Infrastructure 2014 report from the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) says investment in waste facilities has suffered as a result of a “lack of direction” in policy making, especially in England.

In contrast, it praises the devolved administrations’ waste strategies: “Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland provide clear leadership that aligns with European Directives and they should be commended on this foresight.”

The organisation said that Government leadership was essential to promote a shift toward a more circular economy.

Policymakers should look at imposing landfill or energy-from-waste bans and establishing reuse and recycling targets similar to the ones applied to end-of-life vehicles, it indicated.

The ICE recommended the creation of an ‘Office for Resource Management’, to be located within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which would oversee and coordinate resource policy in England.

Such a body would:

  • Review current competencies and  vulnerabilities, including modelling scenarios to inform policy making and direction across government and in EU negotiations;
  • Work with stakeholders in developing policy to shift from ‘waste’ to ‘resource’ management and create a circular economy;
  • Lead the setting of national innovation priorities, including future National Waste Planning policy, updates to the National Waste Management Plan and National Infrastructure Plans.

The ICE also noted that data on waste, especially in the commercial and industrial sector, should be improved to assess infrastructure needs and identify policy priorities. To do so, it recommended that the electronic duty of care becomes mandatory.

The report grades the UK’s waste, transport, energy, flood and water networks from A to E. Overall, waste infrastructure in the UK was awarded a grade C+, up from C in the 2010 report. The grade was higher than local transport (D-), flood management (C-) and energy (C-).

It acknowledges that the civil engineering industry will require a wider range of skills and competencies in future. Engineers’ technical skills must be complemented by professionals who understand finance, marketing, leadership and the management and the impact of global influences, it says.

At the same time, building information modelling, the low carbon agenda, off-site construction, globalisation and innovative approaches to resilience improvement are changing the skill sets that engineers and engineering require.

Barry Dennis, director general at the Environmental Services Association:

Ross Barry

“We welcome the ICE’s report on the state of Britain’s infrastructure, which highlights the importance of waste infrastructure for the UK economy.

“ESA agrees with the report’s conclusion that ‘Waste policy in England lacks direction and thus investment in infrastructure has suffered.’ We believe that if there is clear policy and direction, then our members and investors will support new infrastructure developments, which will in turn improve the UK’s ability reach waste targets.

“We also welcome ICE’s call for an ‘Office of Resource Management’ to sit within BIS, which is consistent with ESA’s recommendation in our circular economy report ‘Going for Growth – A practical route to a circular economy’.  With the recent appointment of BIS Minister Michael Fallon as’ ‘waste champion’ government seems to be moving in this direction.”

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