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That was 2012: the year from the pages of MRW - part 1

A look back at the stories we covered in January, February and March

January

MRW started its 100th anniversary year with a look at how potential health risks could derail a range of key projects. It focused on an energy-from-waste (EfW) plant in Norfolk and the Health Protection Agency’s proposals for a study on birth outcomes around plants.

The mid-January edition led with concerns about a much-vaunted waste framework project in the south-east. Critics, including consultancy firm WYC, claimed it would be costly for councils, despite initial claims of savings of up to £85m.

An MRW story on a senior Environmental Agency (EA) figure’s ambitions to shut down 300 illegal waste sites in England completed the month. Speaking exclusively to MRW, Mat Croker (right) admitted there was room for improvement in the EA’s waste crime record, and said that a crackdown on 594 sites was a top priority.

February

February’s opening issue led with industry leaders calling for “robust action” against scrap metal merchants who miss monthly deadlines for competence tests. This was despite many traders believing them to be unfair and irrelevant. One merchant told MRW it was just “money making by the Government”

The activities of Veolia’s parent company in Palestine and Israel was a lead story. The company has come under increasing pressure from Palestinian rights protestors all year, who wanted councils to boycott the company when it came to considering waste management contracts in the UK.

This was followed by industry chiefs’ concerns about a perceived undermining of EfW projects. Early drafts of a Government document for councils were slammed as “unduly negative and weak in supporting EfW” by an influential group of waste professionals.

As the metal theft crisis continued, February ended with the news that scrap merchants felt they were under increasing and damaging pressure from the police. Several dealers told MRW that legitimate traders were being treated in a heavy-handed manner by officers desperate to satisfy a public outcry over increasingly brazen thefts.

March

The month began with a report over fears that councils would be saddled with extra costs if their bids for the Government’s weekly bin collection scheme was successful. Waste experts warned that councils would have to clear a number of costly hurdles with waste management contractors.

Then MRW reported that waste exporters were facing damaging delays because of a lack of container capacity on shipping lines. Delays were reported in east and west Africa, as well as China and the Far East.

An opportunity for the EfW industry to sell itself to the nervous public was another leading story. This was after Tory MP Anne McIntosh, who chaired the parliamentary Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee, called for a much wider public debate on the topic. She also featured in an exclusive profile in MRW in April.

Then MRW revealed that waste PFI contracts were to be targeted for retrospective savings as part of a new probe. The initiative was a joint one between Defra, Local Partnerships and Infrastructure UK.

March ended with the news that the publication of a National Waste Management Plan had been further delayed until 2013. It added to industry concerns that waste projects could face significant hold-ups.

The centenary year of MRW

One of MRW’s own highlights of the year was undoubtedly celebrating our 100th birthday. As with Biffa, 1912 saw the birth of our predecessor, Waste Trade World.

Our special supplement highlighted how far the industry has come in that time and adapted and adjusted to economic, political and social change - much the way it does today.

It was interesting to reflect how, in some decades, the economic factor was key, for example, when resources were scarce in the war years. From the 1970s, we had three decades of a “green” momentum but that is now transposing itself back to an economic imperative with a global concern for resource scarcity.

In 1912, incineration was a staple method for dealing with waste - 100 years on, the British public has yet to be convinced about its 21st century manifestation: energy from waste.

Recent years have seen a marked increase in the number of major players looking to boost their share of what is generally still a growing marketplace, despite the economic gloom across Europe. We are also seeing technical advances in the treatment of waste, and far more types of waste capable of being kept out of landfill.

As MRW moves into its second century, we will be reflecting the growing uncertainty facing the UK waste sector as it serves global markets. Exporters are increasingly setting higher quality benchmarks while those same importing countries look to more of their own waste to provide much-needed recyclates.

We will also highlight policy differences within the nations of the UK and the extent to which the recycling/reuse focus moves up the waste hierarchy.

If you missed our special supplement, we still have spare copies. Email: MRW@emap.com

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