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MP on the front line

Since the green sector is vital to the UK’s economy and creates jobs, I wanted to learn more about this sector. In order to do this, I am currently undergoing a placement at UK recycling and waste management company FCC Environment and its global group.

This placement is part of an Industry and Parliament Trust (IPT) fellowship. The IPT is an independent educational charity that links parliamentarians with businesses in the UK to provide a unique insight into the world of industry and commerce. I approached the IPT as one of my colleagues had taken part in a fellowship and was complimentary about its value.

Each programme is tailored to the participant’s interests and because I am passionate about the benefits of recycling and I represent a consituency near a major port, I specified that I wanted to learn more about waste management and ports. I was placed with FCC Environment, which has been a member of the IPT since 2004.

In January, I met with FCC Environment recycling experts to discuss issues currently affecting the industry. It was great to talk to individuals working for a company at the forefront of modern recycling – a sector of major social importance which has huge potential to contribute to the UK’s economic future growth.

In the coming months, in between my parliamentary commitments, I will visit the company’s UK recycling and treatment facilities, including a specialist waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) recycling site.

Back in February, I travelled with representatives from FCC Environment to visit sites of sister company .A.S.A. Group in Austria and Slovakia. Following a briefing in Vienna from Petr Vokřál, chief executive of .A.S.A. Group, I was taken on a tour of a waste to energy plant in Zistersdorf, which is also in Austria. The next day I visited recycling, composting and refuse derived fuel (RDF) manufacturing facilities operated by .A.S.A on behalf of its customer, the municipality of Trnava in neighbouring Slovakia. 

It was enjoyable to meet so many people in the recycling industry; I was impressed by their enthusiasm for turning waste into a resource and their ambitions for the future of the sector in both the UK and Europe.

The two day trip enabled me to examine recycling infrastructure and consider the future of the sector in central and eastern Europe. It is clear that different countries are developing at different rates and each can learn from the others.

I was also made aware of the challenges facing international recycling companies such as .A.S.A. Group which operates across central Europe. Though EU member states fall under the same regulations, their application and response varies significantly. For example, Slovakia has little history of recycling. In addition, many countries have individual pecularities regarding recycling responsibilities and waste collection which causes further complications.

From my time at FCC Environment so far, I feel that I am already gaining a better understanding of the recycling and waste management industry and the range of services offered. Being well informed about this sector is extremely useful to my job as an MP and will no doubt influence my voting behaviour for the better in the future.

However, I am also keen to pass on insights from my placement to my constituents in Southport. For example, I recently had the confidence to challenge a vice chancelleor of a University who was opposed to the possibility of an incinerator being built nearby. Following my visit to an incinerator in Vienna, I was able to explain the efforts undertaken by companies that operate these facilities to minimise their environmental impact on the surrounding area.

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