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Little new on policy at new-look RWM

RWM with CIWM has come and gone, the annual round of business meetings, chance conversations, theatre events and social engagements. Frantic, yes, but definitely not to be missed.

Robin Latchem RWM 2014

The gathering of the waste management clans was certainly improved by the shift to halls 4 and 5 at the NEC. It always takes a while to orientate oneself around landmarks such as the Viridor café or the local authority theatre but there seemed greater continuity as I moved around the site. A new stop-off was the Circular Economy Connect theatre, reflecting the growing relevance and interest in this model for a more efficient use of our valuable natural resources.

It was the scene for the appearance of the ever-controversial Eric Pickles, which is reflected both in Noel Ford’s latest excellent cartoon on the cover of the current issue and our reporting of RWM. Some had indicated concern in private conversations ahead of the event that the minister’s appearance would go badly. It didn’t exactly go well but the waste sector doesn’t exist in a vacuum away from politics so we do need to hear what our policy-makers think, probably all the more so if they are not sympathetic.

I was more disappointed in Dan Rogerson’s appearance the next day. It had been suggested that the short-notice change was to respond to Pickles assertions around collections but the speech turned out, as a senior journalist put it, to be “one of the most lack-lustre presentations at the show”. I was told Rogerson got up at 3.30am to fit RWM into his existing diary but one wonders why he bothered when it was little more than the re-reading of the script of a pre-recorded video for the show.

It all serves to emphasise that, apart from Pickles, there seems little appetite in Whitehall for significant comment on our sector. As Phillip Ward eloquently points out in his opinion column, we are still waiting on the new environment secretary Elizabeth Truss to say anything substantial. Even the critical comments from Labour’s Maria Eagle came at a fringe meeting of the party conference in Manchester but, at least, one of the topics the beleaguered Ed Miliband DID remember to mention was backing for the Green Investment Bank.

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