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Noises off in the corridors of power

It was only a single tweet, but it marked a significant development in what seems to be an inevitable slide towards the UK failing to hit the household recycling target for 2020.

The background to the tweet was a meeting, as MRW went to press, of key stake-holders across the waste sector: CIWM, ESA, LGA, LARAC and WRAP, among others. Defra was in the chair and had prepared a briefing paper beforehand to aid discussion.

The tweet was sent by ESA adviser Roy Hathaway, in a personal capacity, because he was struck by a phrase in the document indicating Defra’s acknowledgement that “it seems unlikely we can achieve 50% without further action”.

This was the most public indication to date from Whitehall that something will have to be done to address the problem that the sector, including MRW, has been shouting about for some time.

But as we have reported, any idea that this is an official view is contested by Defra’s Colin Church. I have not seen the document but reliable sources have indicated to me that - if nothing else - it is genuinely a view within Whitehall.

Our civil servants rightly work to the agenda of their political masters and we know Defra ministers prefer ‘stepping back’ in terms of intervention to stepping forward. But civil servants are also charged with having an eye to a change of those masters come the General Election so, four months out, they are in a difficult period.

Another tricky topic is the future of the so-called circular economy package from Brussels. After recent reports that it might not see the light of day, we exclusively reported that the European Commission still intends to introduce resource-efficient measures that are broader than just waste policies.

Our report came on the day that WRAP and the Green Alliance published an excellent report on how many new jobs a developing circular economy could generate by 2030. A crucial element of the research was ‘net’ jobs - the extra ones created, not just replacing, those in declining industries. Ahead of an election, the timing is perfect and it is right to concentrate on net jobs as they are the sort politicians want to see.

Finally, you only have a few days to enter the National Recycling Awards. There is so much good practice in our sector - make sure everyone else knows about yours by winning on the night.

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