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Uber-style waste app a ‘wake-up call’ for industry

The success of an Uber-style waste management business in the US could put pressure on the UK industry to improve performance and customer relations, according to Suez UK chief executive David Palmer-Jones.

The Uber application allows customers to order a taxi or private car from their mobile phones. It led to a cab drivers’ protest on 9 June who feared it was undermining taxi regulations in London.

US waste firm Rubicon Global has appointed Uber’s original chief technological officer, Oscar Salazar, to help launch a similar app.

Rubicon manages a network of independent companies which bid on picking up waste from business customers. It uses its software to find places to recycle, resell and haul off the materials.

Palmer-Jones (pictured) said the development was a “wake up call” for the UK waste industry.

At RWM on 15 September, he said that companies should not be scared its potential introduction in the UK, but that they should take note of the Rubicon’s high levels of customer service.

“We offer the services that they can offer. They are only piecing together using the infrastructure we invest in to offer those solutions,” he said.

“I think perhaps they steal a march occasionally on the more traditional waste industry on customer relations. But it is for us to show the customer that we can perform.”

He added that UK firms need to utilise the increasing amount of data they collect to present to and help their customers.

Viridor chief executive Ian McAuley added that the UK waste industry was a “technology laggard” and needed to invest more in this area.

Both were speaking on a panel discussion at the NEC in Birmingham, which also included CIWM chief executive Steve Lee, Zero Waste Scotland chief executive Iain Gulland and Veolia chief operating officer Gavin Graveson.

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