Working together to create a “resource economy” was Secretary of State Caroline Spelman’s message to members of the waste industry attending Tuesday’s CIWM annual conference.
Speaking the day the Waste Review was published, she said: “The Government is on a mission to create a resource economy with your help…We want to move people away from thinking about waste to recognising waste as a resource with real economic value, which is a view your industry has had for some time now.”
She said it was time to be “smarter” about waste and talked of taking a new approach to “the way we think about consumption”.
“The review gives confidence to be ambitious and invest in the long term,” she said, adding that growth projections in the industry were 3-4% per annum. Moves such as looking to ban wood from landfill and support for energy from waste, as well as the publication of the AD Strategy also showed a “shared commitment from Government to industry”.
She said Government wanted to move away from being too “heavy handed” in a way that would “stifle innovation” to “establishing the right infrastructure and creating new value and new jobs and creating the right climate to make long term changes”.
Spelman said Government wanted to “be clear about the need to push away from landfill” and that the review was “about creating the right environment for the resource management industry to survive”.
Reducing consumption and waste in the first place was important and she said voluntary responsibility deals were a “powerful tool” in this area, with Government working on new voluntary responsibility deals with different sectors. She added that “all businesses should have easy access to recycling” and that steps were being taken to make it easier for SMEs to recycle.
Keen to highlight that a “step change” to a zero waste society would require “local authorities working with householders and not against them” Spelman said there would be a move away from the “disproportionate powers” councils could use against householders for waste offences to targeting “persistent and deliberate offenders” including waste operations that were flounting the law. She said Government wanted to help local authorities “refocus on waste collection efforts” and help them meet the “reasonable expectations householders have of smelly waste”.
When Spelman was asked by Closed Loop managing director Chris Dow whether the PERN system would be changed to discourage the export of UK recovered materials abroad, she admitted that the question was “quite a technical question for me” but said Government was “committed to exploring options”.
Asked by another member of the audience how localism fit with planning needs, Spelman replied: “Localism is all about a bottom up approach which means that people on the ground in receipt of services are driving changes…The shape of services depends on localism being at the heart of planning reform, which is about making planning simpler, fairer and faster…it’s very important waste planners must look to ensure there is sustainable infrastructure for waste before more development.”