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Is Europe blowing cooler on resources?

The party conference caravans have ridden off into the distance. After the gatherings in Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow, MRW cannot bring you exciting news of how the main parties will deal with waste and resources because there was barely a whisper.

This must underline what we have already been told by Defra: that much of the hard work towards a circular economy - or at least a more resource-efficient one - may well have to be done in-house by the waste sector itself and interested waste producers.

It was in that vein of needing to keep up the message that the Environmental Services Association (ESA) joined sister organisations across Europe in Brussels on Tuesday evening for the launch of a strategy paper, Driving the Circular Economy.

ESA chairman David Palmer-Jones sees the document as setting a vision of how the resource management industry can play its part in the wider EU economy until 2020. Palmer-Jones doubles up as president of the European Federation of Waste Management Environmental Services (Fead), which has produced the paper.

There is a lot of common sense within it, including the need to work on the partnerships between waste producers and managers that strengthen recyclability in product design and manufacture, as well as calling for greater coherence in policy making.

Fead is taking an European view, but how ready is the EU itself to build on the positive efforts of outgoing environment commissioner Janez Potocnik? Early communications from the next president-elect Jean-Claude Juncker were that the Brussels machine might not be as strong on Potocnik’s circular economy proposals and readier to listen to those for whom a circular economy is considered a burden on business.   

Those fears were not assuaged when Slovenia’s Alenka Bratušek (vice-president-designate for energy union) and Malta’s Karmenu Vella (environment, maritime affairs and fisheries commissioner-designate), were grilled by MEPs. Both were berated for lacklustre performances. As MRW went to press, it looked increasingly likely that Bratušek might not make the final cut - and that was how it turned out.

Many of the senior figures in the UK waste industry have helped to bring profound changes to the domestic sector. We hope their role in European forums such as Fead will not be hindered by a change of wind direction in Brussels.

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