These highlights from 2014 as reported in the news pages of MRW
Waste crime became a hot topic again, with Rogerson outlining a strategy for the EA to get tougher. The move came in a letter to the ESA, CIWM, the Resource Association and the Renewable Energy Association, in which Rogerson set out measures for the EA to implement during the next 12 months.
But a long-running debate on fire risk heated up when almost 300 English waste sites were identified as being an “increased risk” of fire, costing the emergency services in England and Wales more £32m in the previous two years. Rogerson said the EA had identified, but not named, 80 sites as posing a “very high risk” if a fire occurred. Another 215 sites were considered to be “medium risk”.
This followed news the previous month that WRAP’s Welsh organisation had launched the first phase of a project aimed at addressing the rise in insurance costs for the waste industry; it later said it had insufficient evidence to prompt further action.
The Tyre Recovery Association branded guidance aimed at reducing fire risk at waste management sites as “counter-intuitive and arrogant”. The organisation argued that the Waste Industry Safety and Health Forum had not consulted with them and much of the guidance was not viable for the tyre industry. The guidelines were revised later in the year.
The EA began shifting material from a waste mountain towering over homes in Orpington, Kent, after it was frustrated in legal attempts to force the site’s owner to do so.
Twelve months after the introduction of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act, MRW reported that the taskforce formed to fight metal theft had been stripped to the bare bones.
One industry source said that resources specifically dedicated to fighting metal theft was just four ‘regional co-ordinators’ since funding ran out in September. These officers were limited in what they could do, especially in terms of working with forces in different regions. In effect, the source said, officers could ask only for support from other forces, and such requests could well be turned down on grounds of cost.
The association of European waste management trade bodies put forward a strategy to drive the transition towards a circular economy. The European Federation of Waste Management Environmental Services Association said the plan reflected the “vital role” of the private waste management sector in Europe.
Back at home, the UK’s main political parties were criticised for failing to mention resource efficiency during their autumn conferences and not setting out comprehensive waste and recycling strategies.
City of Cardiff Council said it was considering options to meet its obligations under Welsh recycling targets, including moving to four-weekly collections of residual waste.
Research found that more than half of people still find recycling confusing, and are unsure about what can and cannot be recycled, said Ceris Burns International.
November saw the GIB and others pledge more than £180m towards AmeyCespa’s £320m Allerton project in North Yorkshire, which lost PFI tax credits worth £65m on the grounds of “too much existing capacity”.
This followed Defra withdrawing PFI tax credits worth £115m from Veolia’s EfW scheme with Hertfordshire County Council, saying the UK did not need the capacity.
Defra released statistics that showed recycling rates had stalled, comparing 44.16% in 2013 to 44.11% in 2012 – the smallest rise since the UK committed to a 50% target by 2020.
Earlier in the month, the department released figures showing that the number of fly-tipping incidents in England had risen for the first time in six years while prosecution wins were down.
To add to the doom and gloom, the Bureau of International Recycling found that manufacturing industries in major economies were 30% down on recycling figures compared with 2008, with recyclers competing for fewer materials.
Ministers were then accused of having their “heads in the sand” by refusing to do more to combat the waste of valuable resources, including food. The charge was led by MP Joan Walley, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee.
Hoping to spur politicians to do more, Resources and Waste UK was launched collaboratively between the CIWM and ESA. The resource management lobbying group was aimed at co-ordinating policy activities between the two organisations and influencing MPs, the Government, regulators and the media.
The year ended with general concern across the sector as the European Commission reined back on proposed challenging recycling targets for 2030, with sources indicating that agreement would not be achieved between member states and MEPs. Discussions and lobbying were continuing fiercely as MRW went to press.
Amid national publicity over the role of two banks, RBS and Lloyds, in dealing with client firms, London recycling company Bywaters promised a fight “until the end” in a dispute with RBS over an alleged loss of business worth £10m.
Following a BBC Panorama programme, Bywaters’ managing director John Glover (left) said the company had been badly affected as a result of a revaluation of its property value, which the bank denied.
Norfolk County Council completed paying the full £33.7m settlement on its abandoned Willows EfW project, a move the council leader described as an “act of closure in a sad and sorry saga” (see April).
Nine months after calling for evidence on the RDF market, Defra said it would consider producing a standard definition and treatment guidelines. But there would be no prescription on the composition of material. Defra also said it would consider the case for financial guarantees or bonds for permitted sites (see March).
The former Government agency WRAP will have a new look and role in 2015 as it adjusts to life as a charity.
The year ended tragically with six people dying when a bin lorry careered into shoppers in the centre of Glasgow on 22 December.