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Let's not be dogmatic about regulation

Many of us will soon be at RWM, the annual three-day gathering of the waste and recycling clan at the NEC near Birmingham. What mood will visitors be in as they enter the halls? 

On the bright side, our regular prices reports show that the value of secondary materials has picked up from the depths of last year. The weaker pound, on the other hand, has probably done more harm than good.

Brexit and March 2019 is getting ever nearer, with little to ease the current economic and political uncertainty. There is a keen sense in the sector that independence from the EU offers an opportunity to develop resource-efficient policies tailored to the UK.

But for that to happen, politicians must get the message that ours is a highly regulated industry and we ditch EU-driven ‘red tape’ at our peril. This is not a time to allow greater licence to those who do not play by the current rules.

And, for the metal recyclers, we need tighter regulation. The British Metals Recycling Association has made a strong case for changes to the Scrap Metal Dealers Act, arguing that its remit is not broad enough, insufficient resources are being used to enforce it and metal crime is increasing.

The magazine version of my leader was read by a scrap metal businessman in the north-west as I was preparing this online version. He called up to tell me that within 20 miles of his yard, at least six others are paying cash for scrap, which is illegal. That doesn’t need new regulation - just greater enforcement. The dedicated police effort has withered away and the BMRA can’t persuade the authorities to stump up the necesary cash.

But additional regulation is also needed. What also merits attention, in our view, is the current law which does not make it illegal to ACCEPT cash for scrap. The BMRA is lobbying MPs hard on this as well.

More generally, there is greater expectation than for some time of the current secretary of state. Michael Gove is a politician with a track record of wanting to make a difference, so we may seen action taken over products and materials that get a bad press, such as coffee cups and capsules.

At long last, we should also be getting the 25-year environment plan. And it is helpful that Therese Coffey, exceptionally, has a second year as resource minister because she is well-versed on industry concerns and can follow up on issues she has already considered, such as harmonisation of household collections.

RWM itself has had a makeover, integrating the related water, renewables and energy events into the main exhibition. At the show, MRW will be unveiling the results of our ‘industry insight’ survey, with the full details in our next issue.

Whatever RWM means for you, enjoy the show.


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