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Waste management in transition

It is heartening to see stronger half-year financial reports from the big players in our sector. We must all hope the trend continues although they are still finding the climate challenging for their waste and recycling operations.

The headline successes are generally down to re-structuring but they also reflect a shifting business emphasis. One of most interesting commitments to such a change came from Estelle Brachlianoff who heads Veolia’s operations in the UK and northern Europe.

Nearly 12 months after taking the reins, and in a week in which the company proudly showed off London’s first local authority combined heat and power scheme in Southwark, Brachlianoff was adamant Veolia would not continue as a waste management company as such but would become a “manufacturing company in the circular economy”. A bold statement, maybe, but it is clear Veolia won’t be left thinking: ”what if?”

In the meantime, a recent court case shows how responsible companies can be undermined by irresponsible ones running roughshod over the law. Criminals who formed a partnership to dump 57,000 tonnes of waste over a five-year period (presumably instead of paying landfill tax) were fined a grand total of £25,000 and given suspended prison sentences. As one acerbic reader on the MRW website commented: “Sounds like a worthwhile investment”. Another, Bywaters’ MD John Glover, calculated: “the benefit to the fly tipper appears to be 228 times the fine”.

An EA crime officer said, somewhat optimistically: “We hope that these fines send a clear message to criminals that we are coming for them.” Do they though? The EA has decided not to try to claw back any ill-gotten gains through proceeds of crime legislation so it seems its current review of sentencing guidelines is nothing if not timely.

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