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Digging into the menace of illegal dumps

I’ve referred in the past to the possibility of waste crime rising up the political agenda – much as metal theft did three or four years ago. It was interesting, therefore, to see Sky News compiling a special report on the blight of illegal waste sites this week. 

The examples chosen and the presentation left no doubt about the severe impact on many communities and the difficulties faced by regulators in tackling the problem.

The consequences were well reported, but there was virtually no real investigation of the underlying issues: the slump in material prices, enforcement of duty of care and inadequate regulatory resources, to name but three. 

In a former life, I worked for Sky News and I have no doubt that, had I put together such a report at that time, without my experiences in recent years it would have been similarly light.

We do suffer as an industry from an iceberg-style public perception: people see their bins emptied and fly-tipping in their neighbourhoods but they do not appreciate a wider waste industry busy creating value. For brighter news of real innovation and progress, I recommend the article about Enval and laminate packaging in our current issue.

Elsewhere, in what is a remarkable coincidence, three major figures in the sector announced their departure barely a fortnight apart. First to go public late last month was Defra’s director of resources Colin Church (he leaves in April). CIWM chief executive Steve Lee’s announcement came the day after, although he will see out the year. Then, this week, WRAP chief executive Liz Goodwin said she was to move on at the end of June. 

I loved a tongue-in-cheek Tweet from Church saying he had been asked “to confirm/deny rumours that the three of us have some master plan for world domination! We don’t!” Each has made a huge contribution to the development of the waste industry and MRW wishes them the very best.

Finally, the recent high winds produced grim consequences for many of us with wheelie bins. Could somebody please come up with designs that do not blow over so easily, ironically creating litter? It can’t have been an easy time, either, for the collection teams who, in my area at least, remain remarkably stoical at such times.

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