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That was 2012: the year from the pages of MRW - part 4

A look back at the stories we covered in October, November and December

October

October opened with a MRW exclusive that businesses in Bath were set to launch what was claimed to be the first commercial waste collection scheme, as proposed in the Government’s waste review in 2011. The service for up to 620 businesses was being procured by the Bath Business Improvement District, working with Eunomia consultancy.

Then came the news that leaders in the EfW industry called for clarity on sustainable power policy from ministers. Waste giants Veolia and Biffa joined dozens of business and lobby groups in signing a letter to chancellor George Osborne calling for certainty for renewables investors.

Also this month, the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) called for greater co-ordination between individual governments within the British Isles.

A CIWM report, Professional Perspectives on Waste & Resource Management, said: “We need clear statements on key strategic issues such that industry can plan and invest in the sector with confidence”.

The month ended with concerns about the glass sector struggling to hit targets. Third quarter waste packaging figures suggested this was a glass ceiling too high for the resource sector, with experts calling the target for Q4 “impossible”.

November

The month began with a major energy company withdrawing plans to build two wood recycling biomass plants. Centrica Energy said it had dropped plans for an 80MW station in Barrow-in-Furness and a 137MW plant in Lincolnshire following changes to Government subsidies.

In September the Government had announced plans to cap the amount of support that dedicated biomass would receive under the Renewables Obligation.

Marks & Spencer’s sustainability chief Mike Barry said a circular economy in the UK was inevitable. Speaking at the annual WRAP conference, Barry said: “The resource crunch is going to drive our input costs up and we are not going to be able to pass those costs on to the consumer in this time of austerity.

“Social media utterly disrupts the marketplace and gives the means to anybody, no matter how small… [to] compete with us in terms of selling goods and services. The marketplace that still has significant disquiet over big business.”

The Scrap Metal Bill introducing a new licensing regime passed the crucial third reading stage in the Parliamentary process, but a review after five years was promised as a concession to rebel Conservative MPs. It was expected to take effect in February 2013.

Scrap dealers angered by the impending cash ban delivered a solicitor’s letter to the Government threatening court action if the ban was not delayed or proper guidance was issued. More than 140 independent dealers signed the letter, which was also backed by a rebel trade group launched earlier in the month.

November’s final lead story saw an anaerobic digestion AD plant on Teesside receive a £16m investment as part of the Green Investment Bank’s plans to boost green energy projects. The funding was the first part of a £100m five-year investment plan for “industrial scale” AD across six UK sites.

December

No doubt the most significant date of the final month of 2012 was 3 December, when the ban on paying for scrap metal in cash came into force across England and Wales, a move from ministers to counter metal theft.

Smaller dealers complained that the change would benefit their larger competitors and a last-minute challenge in the High Court was thrown out. There were reports from around the country of ‘creative’ accounting as a way to get round the ban.

The chancellor’s Autumn Statement brought a cool response from the industry, with sector leaders accusing George Osborne of failing to recognise the potential of waste and recycling companies and operators to help lead the country out of its slump in a sustainable way.

Biffa’s attempt to improve its financial position was marked with a buyout of the company by its biggest lenders. Four investors became majority shareholders and threw in a £75m cash injection, which the company said would fund a new infrastructure programme.

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