The Futuresource 2010 exhibition, held at London’s Excel last week, featured more than 300 exhibitors from all areas of the waste and recycling industry, including waste management companies, vehicle manufacturers, Government departments and industry bodies. The accompanying conference also hosted sessions from leading industry players setting out their visions and challenges for the future, focusing on issues such as planning, finance, procurement and targets.
Undoubtedly one of the headlines from this year’s show was the appearance of key parliamentary figures most notably secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs Caroline Spelman, who addressed the waste management industry for the first time since taking office, and parliamentary under-secretary of state Lord Henley, who holds the portfolio for waste and recycling. Here MRW takes a look at some of the show’s highlights.
Before the address from Spelman on the first day of the show (Tuesday), delegates at the conference heard from the head of the Conservative Environment Network (CEN) Peter Ainsworth, who was quick to tell them exactly what he thought of the state of waste management policy in Britain, referring to it as a “total and utter mess”. One of the main problems, according to Ainsworth, is a completely “fractured” policy environment, with different public bodies involved in the area of waste management.
Ainsworth explained: “There is Defra, which is notionally responsible for setting overall policy, then there is the Department for Communities and Local Government, which is responsible for planning, there is the Department for Energy and Climate Change (Decc), then there is the Department for Business, which is involved because of the enormous economic potential tied up with waste. Behind all of that lot, as ever, is the Treasury, and below that there is the myriad of local authorities that all have their own opinion about waste policy.”
He believes that since losing its climate change remit to Decc, Defra has, in reality, little power to implement the sort of policies needed to adequately influence waste management. He said: “Has Defra got the clout it now needs across Whitehall? The vast majority of funds that pass through Defra’s hands go to farmers or flood prevention - they are not spent on waste. As we have heard, policies dependent on waste are largely dictated by other departments. The question of Caroline Spelman is: even if Defra collectively had the will to make the changes necessary to get a more rational approach to dealing with waste in this country, would it actually have the power to do it? I don’t envy Ms Spelman - I think she has got an incredibly difficult job.”
“We at WRAP should only play in places where we are sure there aren’t other players who can do it better or cheaper than us.”
Despite Ainsworth’s assertions that the UK waste management sector is in a bad way, there was a different perspective from France. SITA France chairman and CEO Christophe Cros, also speaking at the conference, said of Ainsworth’s comments: “Viewed from France, the waste management situation in the UK looks quite promising.” The exhibition also enjoyed a visit from Northern Ireland environment minister Edwin Poots, who toured the show for an hour on Tuesday afternoon following a presentation to conference delegates on ‘Zero Waste’.
Also on Tuesday, vehicle manufacturer JCB announced plans to accredit drivers with a unique Operator Training Course for the company’s Wastemaster vehicle range. Developed in conjunction with the National Construction College (NCC), the week-long training programme will provide vehicle specific training for the JCB Wastemaster Wheeled Loading Shovel vehicle.
The course will provide an additional qualification on top of the current industry standard Construction Plant Competence (CPCS) ‘red card’ scheme, incorporating both classroom and practical lessons. Such lessons will cover Wastemaster moving and handling, stability factors and the use of JCB attachments specifically for waste and recycling operations, with an oral and a practical exam at the end of the week.
NCC senior instructor Christopher Blake told MRW: “To run to CPCS standards and to bolt on a Wastemaster qualification means you’re definitely going to gain.” And JCB general manager for waste, recycling and demolition James Richardson explained that efficient driver training would maximise operational efficiency, minimise health and safety risk, and meet profitability targets.
The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) launched a toolkit for electronic retailers to make the process of communicating their free recycling services to customers easier. Retailers of electrical products are now legally obliged to provide this service so consumers can recycle their waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) in-store. The WEEE Retailer’s Toolkit provides guidance on how to train and inform staff about the scheme so they can then encourage customers to use it. It also allows them to download posters, leaflets and point-of-sale signs branded with the ‘Recycle Now’ campaign, so customers feel more comfortable with the scheme as it is also used across local authorities.
WRAP sustainable products programme manager Gerrard Fisher said several large retailers had already signed up to use the toolkit , which will be announced in the coming weeks. He added: “The toolkit has been produced to give retailers a level playing field.”
Wednesday’s conference delegates heard the first official speech from the new chairman of WRAP, who spoke about the importance of partnership working in relation to overcoming the challenges faced by the waste management industry. Peter Stone said: “I believe the common thread is the role that effective partnership working can play in delivering financial and environmental benefits.” The role played by WRAP in partnership working, was also a key message delivered in Stone’s speech: “We at WRAP should only play in places where we are sure there aren’t other players who can do it better or cheaper than us.”
He outlined the success enjoyed by some existing local authority partnerships, and enforced the message that the benefits of partnerships could extend beyond just the financial: “When waste is unavoidable, we want to see it being used or re-used - not end up in a hole in the ground. The point is that this is a vision shared, whether your driver is economic, environmental or both, by Government, business, local authorities and the public.
“Currently, WRAP works with 17 local authority partnerships to help them run effective local campaigns, with support from us and also from retailers, through a spectrum of measures to help us all reduce food waste.”
Additionally Stone mentioned the two priority areas for the forthcoming WRAP business plan. He said: “Our business plan is still a work in progress. But I can tell you that the two priority areas we have in mind are a clear focus on waste education, through promoting leaner products and services, and continued diversion of biodegradable waste from landfill.”
Wednesday also saw an announcement by waste management firm Severnside that it had won a contract to manage the waste produced by Defra from its 157 sites. Severnside will handle a variety of materials including paper, WEEE, food and other waste through its 15 regional recycling facilities. Support service firm Interserve tendered the contract on behalf of Defra.
Procurement manager for Defra at Interserve Nikki Greening said: “Severnside’s dedication to landfill diversion was fundamental to its appointment. It is very important that Defra actively takes steps to improve its own sustainability when its role is to encourage everyone else to do the same.”
Initially, Severnside will carry out a waste audit, analysing the waste collected from Defra’s sites to develop the most sustainable solutions. The waste audit will determine exactly how much waste Defra produces, and according to Severnside national commercial manager for sales and marketing Tim Price, it is thought to be a “significant” tonnage. He said: “For us, it is a superb win because it is great to be endorsed by Defra. It will positively challenge us, in the same way our contracts with retailers have. It’s possible we will find solutions to deal with the waste that we may not have used before.”
Waste management company Veolia Environmental Services (VES), also an exhibitor at the show, used Wednesday as an opportunity to launch its second waste manifesto. The Waste Manifesto 2 highlights the areas VES hopes to work on during the next year. These include integrated PFI contracts, anaerobic digestion, commingled collection, incentivised recycling and combined heat and power.
Referring to Spelman’s announcement that the Government will carry out a review of the country’s waste policies, VES executive director Paul Levett said: “I’m sure that most of the issues addressed in that review are the very issues we have here today. So this is the first step for our input for that review.” He added that landfill tax has been “very, very important” in driving the market during the past 18 months. He said there is a short-term issue that it has affected demand for landfill, and therefore supply, which could lead to a shortage of landfill in the next few years.
Of commingled collections, Levett said that there is a continuous trend towards commingled collection. He said it tends to be the most efficient solution for local authorities as they collect recycling because it collects higher tonnages of materials and can be easier for residents to carry out.
Addressing the Government’s announcement that it would be supporting the RecycleBank scheme, which is in place in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead and is managed by VES, Levett said: “I do think [incentive schemes are] something we’ll see growing significantly in the coming months.” But he told MRW that the Government withdrawing the pay-as-you-throw option for local authorities was “irrelevant” after none of them came forward to pilot the scheme with the previous Labour Government.
In addition to the exhibition and main conference sessions, there were two seminar theatres at Futuresource, with a wide variety of free seminars for visitors.
At one such seminar on Wednesday, entitled ‘Technology and Implementation’, the Mayor of London’s adviser on waste Peter Jones outlined his belief that the UK will start to see a shift towards major investment in energy-from-waste (EfW) facilities. Jones explained that a “wonderful elision of interesting shortages” will converge in the next two to three years which will force waste management companies to reconsider waste as a resource rather than an end product.
Jones said: “I call it the perfect storm. This is the idea that, around 2012-13, landfill diversion targets start hitting, the current administration indicated it might drop lax requirements on local authorities, the carbon reduction commitment bites, there will be 120 fewer landfills…you might have some really fundamental issues around evidential climate chaos which is the sort of thing that will drive political will to deliver this [and] we’ve got all these additional subsidies.”
Jones commented that current financial barriers to wider EfW investment are also due to change. He explained that previous concerns over the correct placement of EfW plants and the perceived risks of the technology and feedstock which prevented banks and venture capitalists from providing investment opportunities for EfW would soften because of the rising landfill tax.
“No bank will advance money unless all those risks are covered,” said Jones. “My take is that that process is now under way.”