In November I achieved full membership of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), which means that I take on the title of chartered waste manager and can adopt the letters MCIWM after my name along with my legal qualifications (making my post-nominal initials longer than my name!)
However, more than that, it is an achievement of which I am particularly proud because it represents recognition from the waste and resources industry that I have attained a certain level of experience and expertise that warrants merit.
So what does it mean, in practice, to be ‘chartered’? For me, it is an affirmation of my commitment to this industry and to becoming more involved in all aspects of it.
I have found that people who work in the waste and resources industry, more notably than other industry sectors with which I have been involved in during my career, to be passionate and enthusiastic about developing and improving the sector. That is both commendable and inspirational, but more can still be done to entice young people from all disciplines into the sector – and that is something I intend to focus on as a full member of the CIWM.
Earlier this year, I attended the CIWM’s New Member Event in Northampton and was encouraged to see a vast array of professionals, from the public and private sectors, who were relatively new to the industry mixing with more experienced members, such as the immediate past chief executive Steve Lee. I will be presenting at the event next year with a view to encouraging more involvement from new members, perhaps even in the legal profession.
The recent event included a site visit to a MRF owned by Milton Keynes Council and operated by Viridor. Doing this is beneficial to any professional advising waste operators because it gives significant insight into the practicalities, processes and contamination levels experienced at a plant rather than just ‘on paper’.
Site visits feature highly on the CIWM annual calendar of events for that very reason, and provide invaluable opportunities for professionals working in the sector to gain knowledge beyond their own field of practice.
My experience of the waste and resources sector, to date, has taught me that it is ever-evolving in terms of policy, legislation and practice. With recent developments, locally, nationally and globally, that is not set to change anytime soon.
This is a pivotal time for our sector because major change is afoot – not just the adjustments which will inevitably be required once decisions are made in relation to Brexit, but also in the evolution of domestic waste management generally.
In the past year, there has been major change in all the UK jurisdictions which affects the way in which waste can be legally managed, and there is now more focus than ever before on ensuring that ‘waste’ materials are treated as resources and dealt with as high up the waste hierarchy as possible. That trend is continuing and with it comes further policy and legislative change which the industry has to adopt and adapt to.
Professionals in the sector have to be at the forefront of that change, and membership of organisations such as the CIWM is one way to make sure you are not only informed but involved.
In my October column I looked at some of the detail around the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency’s (Sepa) new regulatory strategy One Planet Prosperity, and already some of that is coming to fruition. Sepa has started using its fixed monetary penalties for waste offences, and is consulting on how it will bring in and make use of variable monetary penalties. In Scotland at least, the face of regulation and enforcement of the waste and resources industry is shifting.
Professional advisers (chartered or not) will have to guide and advise operators and suppliers in the sector about what alterations they might need to make to their business practices in order to avoid non-compliance and the consequences that could potentially have on their business, their reputation and/or their profits.
For my part, I look forward to drawing on the experience of other professionals within the CIWM along with the wider waste and resources sector, and will be able to offer something useful back at the same time. Collaboration is key in this industry, particularly in a time of change and challenge.
Laura Tainsh is partner at Davidson Chalmers