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Feature: Twenty years of LARAC scholars

History in the making

The fact that many current recycling officers and exec members were still at school when the first LARAC - the Local Authority Recycing Advisory Committee - meeting took place is testimony to the longevity and success of an organisation mainly staffed by volunteers.

LARAC was set up in 1985, when a dozen local authority officers got together to expand the knowledge of recycling issues within local authorities. It took place two years before the 1990 Environmental Protection Act and, several waste strategies and numerous targets later, LARAC has grown to represent 90% of local authorities. It is well on the way to becoming the first port of call for those wishing to have a dialogue with local authority waste practitioners.

LARAC's strength is its volunteer executive of 20. This is made up of 12 representatives of the English regions, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and eight national reps. As with most volunteers they are there because they want to be and believe in the organisation. Constant change in waste management at an increasing rate has been the backdrop to LARAC's growth.

In the past 20 years, there has been a significant shift from being an organis-ation that provided information to its members to one whose opinion is actively sought by all the main players in the waste sector.

LARAC has had to adjust to these changes,
and the appointment of a full-time executive officer
and part-time additional administrative support has added stability, continuity and increased the organis-ation's capacity. Membership services include a nat-
-ional conference and mini regional conferences each year, a monthly email service, website and quarterly magazine.

There is now a policy team to deal with the increasing raft of consultations and to give a balanced view as LARAC represents waste disposal and waste collection authorities and unitary authorities. In the past year, LARAC exec members attended more than 100 meetings with other waste organisations and represented LARAC to 20 organisations.

In the past two decades, the way in which household waste has been dealt with by local authorities is almost unrecognisable. There is
no reason to think that the next 20 years won't be as changing. The challenge for LARAC is to ensure that the voice of local authorities is not lost in the tumult.

The LARAC Scholarship Programme

There can be few jobs in local government where the pace of change has demanded such a variety of new skills as that of a recycling officer. Roles that once required looking after bottle banks and talking to the WI have radically altered.

Just a cursory glance over the activities that member authorities are involved in shows the need for people with skills in contract management, the ability to apply for funding and manage the resulting project, put together professional communications campaigns, roll out new schemes, survive the twin bin nightmare, soothe the community sector, respond to policy documents and, of course, still be able to talk to the WI.

While courses in waste management are now much more common, many new recycling officers find themselves on a vertical learning curve when first taking up a post. Last year, LARAC announced the start of a three-year scholarship programme sponsored by the compliance organisation Wastelink as a way to help officers get started.

Wastelink's Mike Beard approached LARAC with a proposal to fu

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