Ah, that time before the EU referendum. MRW reported on how the industry had reacted to the then prime minister David Cameron’s announcement of the June poll.
Generally, most of the prominent voices were ‘remainers’, including environment secretary at the time, Liz Truss. There was specific concern about the implications for the package of proposals from Brussels on a circular economy (CE). June was a long way off.
Stronger words came from those who reacted to Defra’s Single Departmental Plan, which covered the rest of the decade. There was no acknowledgement of the role of the waste sector, recycling targets or the CE proposals.
The CIWM’s Lee welcomed a commitment on waste crime but called Defra a department “utterly depleted in terms of resources, funding and vision”. Defra said waste and resource management were important priorities and its fledgling 25-year environment plan would embrace them.
But the then resource minister Rory Stewart did have a policy announcement: the harmonisation of collections. He commissioned WRAP to bring stakeholders together to produce a vision for greater consistency and the implications of change.
In February, debate was continuing on the CE proposals in the expectation that they would affect the UK. The manufacturers’ association EEF criticised proposed targets as too prescriptive.
A substantial report on the challenges of inadequate data was published by Ricardo consultant Simone Aplin, who identified weaknesses and gaps in existing datasets. The report had been commissioned by the RWM Ambassadors, a group of senior figures established in 2014 by RWM organiser i2i.
Aplin argued that the waste management industry would have more confidence about investing in infrastructure if more information was available about the secondary materials markets.
At a national level, there was growing concern at the impact of imports of steel from China, with accusations that the country was ‘dumping’ metal on the world markets; tariffs imposed to prevent the practice were seen as inadequate.
Another prominent sector figure, WRAP chief executive Liz Goodwin, announced that she would step down from the role in June after nine years, in which she had steered it from a not-for-profit arm of Defra to a standalone charity with a worldwide reputation.