The recent REPLAST Conference held by the British Plastics Federation at Carlton House was an outstanding opportunity to hear the Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Mary Creagh give a strong speech emphasising her support for the industry, her concerns regarding illegal exports which are costing UK jobs, and her ideas on reforming the areas that are stunting development and growth of the industry.
This was followed by a speech from the Head of Waste Regulation at Defra, Richard Pullen who focussed on similar areas and did much to help build confidence in the process recently started by Lord Taylor which will now be carried on by Lord de Mauley.
The biggest take out from the conference is that at last we may finally be approaching a time when we genuinely have cross party support for our sector.
Remarkably, just a small amount of regulatory reform will push this industry up to the next level at rapid speed. For example, reform of the PRN system to ensure that local reprocessors work on a level playing field with our export recycling colleagues is one such area, and the fact it was such a hot topic at REPLAST surely means it must be only a matter of time before we see this coming to fruition. The case is certainly mounting.
This, together with the introduction of a mandatory MRF code of practice will ensure that the industry is far more transparent and the MRFs that are currently working hard to achieve very high quality standards are not disadvantaged by those that seek to use the current structure to get around the spirit of their role and responsibility. Everybody at the Conference emphasised strong support for free trade and exports whilst calling for greater enforcement activity against illegal waste exports.
Another exciting development is the work being done by the South East Seven, which is a coordinated attempt by several local authorities to harmonise collection and ensure they take full advantage of the savings that can occur as a result. This truly ground breaking work is something I would encourage all local authorities to strive for as they set aside the issues that divide them and work to the best national outcome in the area of collection system harmonisation.
Finally, Andrew Page from Foresight Group gave a compelling case that once we have these reforms in place we will have a robust industry that will see large flows of capital investment being made as a result of large scale risk mitigation and visibility on investor returns. As Page pointed out, investors want to deploy capital to these industries but the ball is now firmly in the court of government to provide reform and stability to ensure we can produce the thousands of green jobs that lay in wait.
Chris Dow, CEO of Closed Loop Recycling, reports back from the British Plastics Federation conference