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Residual waste sector is holding out for a hero

As those of you who read this column regularly will know, the topic of good or bad communications, and the impact it can have on the waste industry, is a subject close to my heart.

While painting things in black and white is sometimes necessary to encourage debate, I wouldn’t want to give the impression that waste communications is a lost cause – far from it. While it is unfortunate that there is such a lack of trust of the waste sector among the public and environmental NGOs in particular, there are plenty of opportunities open to the waste industry to change this perception. 

For example, the ugly sister of residual waste has much to learn from the Cinderella-like recycling industry, which has successfully managed to get its messages across and transform the behaviour of our nation. One of its tactics has been to employ the “me too” psychology associated with celebrity culture. Perhaps it’s time for the residual waste sector to recruit its own hero – a champion who will become the publicly acceptable face of residual waste treatment.

Of course, the association between celebrity culture and the waste industry would need careful handling. We obviously don’t want any tabloid jibes about ‘I’m a celebrity get me out of this landfill site’!  Anyway, we at Proteus had a little brainstorm and, with tongue firmly in cheek, we came up with the following suggestions to start the ball rolling.

Anne Robinson – a recycling success story in her own right, Anne would tackle residual waste communications as the ‘Weakest Link’, and encourage us to get something positive out of what’s left behind after all the recycling has been done. She’d also have a very unique way of dealing with protestors, too. “Yours is the weakest objection – goodbye!”

Carol Vorderman – no longer the face of Countdown, but still an astute mathematical brain with the common touch. She would be the perfect person for explaining all those complicated science-based things about emissions and ROCs to a sceptical public.

Patrick Stewart – but it has to be in full Jean-Luc Picard mode at the helm of the Starship Enterprise. After all, delivery of effective waste infrastructure is all about enterprise and just think of all the audiences we need to talk to (many of them hostile and alien). Captain Picard would certainly help the waste industry to ‘Engage’.

For a more direct approach we could try Mr T: “You ain’t wastin’ it, you’s burnin’ it, fool!”

Perhaps we shouldn’t confine ourselves to current celebs either. Maybe we should go for a real Hollywood great, such as Humphrey Bogart.  I’m sure he would have felt quite comfortable delivering phrases like “…of all the landfill sites in all the towns in all the world, you had to try and bring biodegradable waste into this one!” Or how about “If that waste leaves the ground and you’re not treating it, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life”?

If we get waste communications with the public right we might even achieve a Casablanca-type ending – “I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship”.

So, just before we cut to the idyllic panoramic sunset with the waves rippling on the shore and the music swelling to a climax, why not put down your popcorn and tell MRW who your waste hero would be – and why?

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