The difficulties facing the industry were brought home this week when we received the brochure for the sales of equipment - and entire building - at the former Aylesford Newsprint plant in Kent.
Seventy-five pages summing up a once thriving business that failed in February. It was the first of 13 machines to be lost this year, accounting for around 20% of domestic capacity. The paper sector has its own specific challenges because of falling demand for newsprint but, with the problems besetting the wider industry and low commodity prices generally, recyclers need some TLC.
Which is why industry organisations have been reacting with concern at the leaked action plan from European Commission officials on objectives in the Circular Economy package due on 2 December, a document exclusively revealed on the MRW website last month.
An obvious worry is a lack of will to develop sustainable markets for secondary raw materials. Roy Hathaway, the Environmental Services Association’s European specialist, is among those who fear that the lack of any requirement for mandatory recycled content, green public procurement left to member states and no preferential VAT rates for recycled products means the commission will not back “pull measures”, arguing that prescriptive action would not be effective or proportionate.
Hathaway has a point: it would be daft to have new higher recycling targets to generate lots of lovely recycled materials without a vibrant, growing market for them.
So if the commission is not going to drive that agenda, it will be up to member states or the European Parliament. MEPs, who have striven to drive the resource efficiency agenda in the past, may well have to put pressure on the relevant government departments and ministers such as Rory Stewart. Having come to office shortly after the general election, he will soon have to shift from his “listening approach” if he is to convince industry he is seriously mindful of its concerns.
The current issue of MRW is published exactly six months after the Conservatives won outright power. MRW has used this milestone to ask industry insiders, led by Biffa chief executive Ian Wakelin, to consider the current investment climate for the resource and waste industry in the UK.