If first impressions matter, then Rory Stewart has got off to a good start with the waste and resources sector.
The new Defra minister, speaking at the annual CIWM/ESA/RA conference, made it clear he wanted to listen before pronouncing on future strategy. In a way, he is being helped in this because of the current hiatus caused by the European Commission’s consultation on its circular economy package.
But there was no denying Stewart’s engaging style in praising delegates for being part of an innovative industry that makes a big contribution to UK plc and society as a whole. I was most struck by his departure: amid warm applause as he began to leave, the minister jumped back to the microphone to repeat his call to be told what needed to be done. It is early days but he seems to be bringing unaccustomed energy to the resource minster’s role.
Meanwhile, heat generated by the debate about a Britain inside or out of the EU does not seem to be affecting our sector very much. Indeed, when Resources & Waste UK launched its six-point joint manifesto for the Government and industry (reported in detail in our last issue), CIWM chief executive Steve Lee told me he believed the UK’s EU membership would not be an issue because any dictat from Brussels would have a profound effect on resource management, in or out.
But Eurosceptic MPs would have found fresh ammo had they been at the biennial conference of Fead, representing resource and waste management companies across Europe. It was held in London this week with the ESA as host. Peter Hodecek, from Austria, was reporting on new Fead research into the state of waste management in central and eastern European countries.
Fead maintains that EU funding to such countries unfairly benefits the public sector, is inadequately audited and investigations into improper practices take far too long. He quoted some interesting and worrying examples.
One Dutch delegate said that if his fellow taxpayers believed this was happening, then they would ask serious questions about what the EU was doing with their money. They wouldn’t be the only ones.
Finally, closer to home - we celebrate British resource management at its undisputed best at the NRAs next week. I hope to see you there, and don’t miss our special winners’ issue.