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Keep it local - the local authority role

Councils are champions of recycling and, in these austere times, they should be reaping the rewards of good practice around recycling and waste management. But with no money for investment in future infrastructure, how can they move forward? Speakers at RWM offer some solutions

Colin Crooks, executive chairman of the London Community Recycling Network, will be talking on ‘Reducing landfill the simplest way: how can local authorities support reuse networks?’ in the Local Authority Theatre on 13 September, 11.00-11.30

Colin Crooks

We in the community resource sector believe that we offer the best solution to the often separated but in fact inter-related challenges of engaging the community and maximising diversion from landfill. Moreover, in an investment-starved environment, we believe that our approach offers a further significant benefit: employment and skills training.

Communities do not always engage with the waste agenda because of the emphasis traditionally placed on expensive highly technical, remote solutions to waste management. In such a world, the only interest people have in waste is in seeing it removed as fast as possible from their doorstep. 

That approach proved successful in an era of unchallenged, centralised management of services. But, increasingly, council tax payers and businesses demand more transparency regarding what happens to their waste. Where is it being recycled? Why does it have to travel halfway around the world? What is it made into?

As they ask these questions, they are also waking up to the hidden value buried in that waste.

We believe that interest levels rocket where waste materials are viewed as a resource that can create local employment, and which can be put to good use in the community that produces it.

Community reuse is the perfect solution for recessionary times where attention is focused on getting by. It requires relatively limited capital investment but generates significant levels of interest from people and businesses in the debate about waste. It also diverts significant quantities of material from landfill and it creates employment.

Paul Bettison, leader of Bracknell Forest Borough Council and chair of the Improvement Efficiency Social Enterprise (iESE), will talk on ‘How the waste collection services framework will support local authorities and the private sector’ in the Leaders Theatre on 11 September, 15.00-15.30

Paul Bettison

As the first authorities are starting to use frameworks to procure their waste, recycling, street cleansing, bulky waste and grounds maintenance services, the framework solution from iESE can cut the normal procurement time line of 12-18 months in half, while delivering additional savings.

For councils wishing to outsource these services, the Waste Management Services Framework offers a compliant and straightforward process to do this.

The framework is free for councils to use, and the talk will cover the level of procurement support that iESE wraps around each authority using the framework, based on the requirements of the council and delivered as part of a package.

The framework is viewed by iESE as a launchpad to better understanding of the mechanics of the market and the needs of councils. With a collective spend of approximately £1.7bn across the waste sector, councils have the opportunity to leverage a better deal. Through supplier and local authority forums, iESE is already making steps toward this goal.

As part of the wider iESE Waste and Resources Support Programme, the framework will provide a level of transparency in the waste market that will help councils to achieve a good deal, and support the whole industry to have a productive dialogue with authorities about their needs.

Adam Read, global practice director for waste management and resource efficiency for AEA, will be talking on ‘The barriers to infrastructure and how these can be overcome’ in the Commerce & Industry Theatre on 11 September, 14.00-14.30

Dr Adam Read

What do you perceive to be the key barriers to developing commercial and industrial business waste infrastructure? Are planning delays the ultimate barrier? Might it be public perception? Perhaps a lack of available finance or feedstock uncertainty? And what solutions would you recommend to overcome these barriers and where do local authorities fit into the picture?

As part of the European Pathway to Zero Waste programme (EPOW), these are questions that AEA has been addressing through a series of 16 industry workshops from May to July this year. We have been discussing with stakeholders what barriers they have faced and, critically, what the potential delivery solutions are. The UK needs sufficient and appropriate infrastructure and supporting systems for the effective management, processing and recovery of business waste both now and in the near future, and this project has aimed to identify those delivery solutions.

We have discussed the issue of data (or lack of) and how uncertainty can undermine business cases and investor confidence. We have talked about the role that councils play in the management of business waste, and the issues of boundaries between waste planning authorities and the more strategic role of local government in terms of planning and service delivery.

We have heard some positive points about the ease of the planning system and how, although there are issues with some sites and facilities, more and more facilities are getting delivered. We have also debated the changing financial landscape and the need to manage expectations about the type of finance available and the likely returns on investment.

The role of local authorities has been hotly debated, particularly with respect to commercial waste. Should they provide infrastructure for business waste, whether in the form of head space in an existing or planned treatment facility or through access to HWRCs? Who should pay for this? And who is setting the policy agenda?

Joy Blizzard, waste initiatives officer at Shropshire Council and chair of the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC), will be speaking on ‘Carrot and stick: what are the best ways to encourage residents to recycle’ in the Local Authority Theatre on 11 September, 10.30-11.00

Joy Blizzard

“The trouble is that the carrots are not particularly juicy and the sticks are like cocktail sticks without the pointy end.” So said a waste friend of mine a few years ago and, in some ways, it sums up the difficulty that we have got ourselves into: camps seem divided on political lines and have become entrenched. 

Carrots (by which we mean rewards) are seen by one camp as a way in which we can tempt and nudge people into “doing the right thing”. Sticks, on the other hand, could include such nasty things such as measures to limit collections, enforcement and, if the more hysterical reports are to be believed, prison time. 

Can the carrot camp actually come up with ways to make residents feel the love without either breaking the bank, or to wean people off rewards and into a recycling habit?

The stick camp has recently been disarmed and their pointy sticks taken into custody by a government seemingly terrified that they will be misused by power mad people who want to interfere with the human rights of those who want to create as much rubbish as possible and not take any personal responsibility for it.

Some attempt to bring the two camps together could be summed up by a previous LARAC chair - “the incentive is, you don’t get fined”. But the difficulty with having an either/or camp is that the common sense approach can get lost in the ideology. Common sense approaches start with evidence-based policy and having a look at what works elsewhere.

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