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2013 review - Herman van der Meij, Viridor

As another year draws to a close, when we work in haste to complete tasks before the festive break, we reflect on year gone by and the challenges 2014 will bring.  We think of our families, our communities, our business and our global community.

For many of us, the year will have been marked by transition – from additions or sad losses to families, to global events when the world’s economies slowly emerged from recession.  Viridor, as with our sector, was no different.

Internationally, we saw the continuation of a global realignment, with China’s enduring dominance of world markets.  That dominance and growth combined with circular economy thinking across Europe demanded an enhanced focus on quality, which remains a priority.  It is an agenda Viridor and others have led in the UK – with investment in advanced materials recycling facilities combined with a relentless pursuit of excellence. 

We’ve seen a debate on the global movement of resources.  Home markets are good for business: investment, employment, closer customer relationships, more stable contracts and less exposure to global markets.  But that proper impetus for investment in UK capabilities should be tempered by realism on global trade, the realities of domestic industrial policy and sensible regulation of exported commodities.

And on export, we have seen a growing realisation on a Jekyll and Hyde policy framework which sees the Environment Agency permitting 1.9m tonnes of waste-derived fuels to be lost from the UK economy annually, at a time when the UK is increasingly importing biomass for renewable energy. 

Viridor’s £1.5bn energy from waste investment programme, linked with recycling operations, now well underway, is fundamentally at odds with those who export UK resources capable of powering growth in our economy and providing energy security, whilst we all pay for the privilege.  The programme is developing UK infrastructure, creating employment and training opportunities.  Generating supply chain opportunities for British SMEs and supporting education focused on environment.

This year’s tornado in Oklahoma was a reminder of the fragile nature of that environment.  Amidst the often negative headlines associated with our sector, we must not lose heart.  Our sector has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 70% since 1990 and is driving sustainability.  It is at the heart of our green economy.  As I gather with colleagues for end of year festivities, I reflect on the legacy that industry leaders like Mike Hellings and Colin Drummond have left, and look with optimist to the New Year and the role we will all play with new figures such as Ian McAulay in transforming waste.

Herman Van Der Meij, Director of Viridor Resource Management

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