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Investment in waste: Kristian Dales, FCC Environment

Back in January 2015, when FCC Environment launched its ‘Mapping the Politics of Waste’ report, we said there was a greater need for political and policy-making consistency from the new Government to create confidence and, therefore, stimulate investment. Fast forward nine months and on the back of a surprisingly definitive election result, has the clarity provided by the voters provided any such clarity for the industry?

Well, as MRW itself pointed out in a recent editorial, there were few crumbs of comfort and limited detail for the sector during party conference season.

With new leaders in post across all three of the traditional “main” parties, that should come as no surprise. It may, however, present an opportunity for a fresh start, open doors and, we hope, open ears. As if often the case any debates on circular economic principles and such like were superseded by the politicking that conference season brings.

Crucially, however, the election outcome means we now face a lengthy run-in to EU referendum which looms large over the industry as a whole. Like the Scottish independence referendum before it, the inherent uncertainty a referendum creates is bound to destabilise investment, cause people to think twice or simply ponder a little harder before making those all important decisions.

Given the positive effect that EU membership has had on waste policy, we expect many will be daunted by the prospect of an “out” verdict. With change afoot on a regional level with devolution also accelerating with the formation of combined authorities and the appointments of elected mayors, matters are likely to become more complicated.

These turbulent political times make for tricky political puzzle to solve in order to get the waste industry’s message across effectively. For now, with technology evolving apace and unlikely to slow down and little prospect of a sudden surge of new PFI projects to give banks the feeling of confidence, the burden is clearly on the industry to lead infrastructure investment.

Take FCC; we’re in the process of creating three new energy from waste plants – a huge investment. What we need to encourage further investment is a stable environment which will allow us to press ahead with at least some degree of surety. You only need to look towards solar power, and the removal of subsidies, to see the effect of uncertainty caused by radical changes in policy.

A beacon of hope could come in the form of the new National Infrastructure Commission – aimed at depoliticising and driving major public infrastructure projects as well as the Green Investment Bank. Can the commission be persuaded just how vital the waste industry is to the future economic prosperity of the UK and take up the cause? One can only hope. We need all the allies we can get.

Kristian Dales, marketing and communications director, FCC Environment



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