This month it became crystal clear that the UK’s overall household recycling rate was not just slowing but there was a danger of it going into reverse. Although the devolved nations were improving their collections record, there been a fall for the first time because efforts in England were stuck.
Suez chief executive David Palmer-Jones called for an industry summit to agree how to respond to the likelihood that the statutory 50% for 2020 would not be reached, although minister Stewart suggested that incinerator bottom ash could ultimately be included in the recycling figures.
Ministers in the Conservative government have always expressed a preference for voluntary agreements to cut waste and backed Courtauld 2025, the latest phase of WRAP’s initiative for food and packaging, kicked off with more than 100 organisations signing up. They included all the major food retailers, food service companies, trade bodies and councils.
Meanwhile, the Government’s ‘Cutting Red Tape’ campaign was met with mixed feelings in the industry. While there was general welcome for easing regulations that hampered business effectiveness, along with a focus on penalising environmental crime rather than minor technical breaches, there was concern the EA was not being resourced adequately to enforced greater duty of care requirements.
The latest twist in Biffa’s business status came with the news – unconfirmed at the time but later carried out – that plans for a sell-off had been ditched in favour of a stock market flotation. At this stage, sources were talking of a £1bn valuation.
Another major sale was also launched: the effective privatisation of the Green Investment Bank (GIB). The invitation to investors came from then business secretary Sajid Javid, who had previously promised that a ‘special share’ would ensure the GIB kept its focus on sustainability.
The waste sector featured prominently on the BBC. Biffa’s awareness campaign on the dangers of people sheltering in waste bins was reported on the Victoria Derbyshire TV show – complete with CCTV footage of rough sleepers.
And Margaret Bates, professor of sustainable waste at the University of Northamptonshire, and later in the year to become CIWM president, allowed cameras to scrutinise her recycling habits.