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Moving on as industry waits at the crossroads

Robin Latchem

The waste sector seems to be at a particular and peculiar tipping point. On the upside, there is considerable public interest in what we all do with ‘rubbish’, mostly plastic after the Blue Planet II programme. On the downside, the economic picture is very challenging as low-value grades of paper and plastic sink in price and export markets are throttled by China’s de facto ban.

As we report in the April issue of MRW, there are genuine fears that companies will go under: Bywaters managing director John Glover believes the industry is “walking on a bed of nails”. At the same time, long-standing and, in some cases, anachronistic private finance initiative contracts are a growing weight on straitened council budgets.

MRW’s freedom of information request to local authorities with low collections who’d been chivvied by the resource minister Therese Coffey produced some candid and fascinating responses which we have reported this month, for example on how PFI deals are restricting efforts to boost recycling.

Back to that tipping point.

Ministers have it in their power to embrace resource efficiency and drive strong markets with the upcoming resources and waste strategy. They also have an opportunity to take the EU’s Circular Economy package and develop an enthusiastic and ‘British’ version, regardless of Brexit. We need them to target economic as well as environmental goals.

These two major policy areas, among others, will evolve over the coming months but I will not be charting them in future issues of MRW.

Being editor for six years has been a considerable honour but, with mixed emotions, I have decided to follow these developments outside of publishing.

I have no plans or desire to leave the sector and will keep bang up-to-date as you do: by following the work of my talented colleagues online and in the pages of MRW. 

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