Resource minister Rory Stewart has urged the waste sector to concentrate on better communication and to offer “really, really” practical solutions for improving resource efficiency.
Stewart gave the keynote speech at the annual conference of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management in partnership with the Environmental Services Association (ESA) and the Resource Association in London.
He began by recalling his appearance at the 2015 event, his first as a minster, and joking: “I’m a more world-weary, ground down minister than the one who bounded on stage then.”
He said the past 12 months had emphasised the importance of listening to the sector because “the Government will never know as much as you do”.
The minister said more effort should be made to communicate with the public about resource depletion.
Don’t always assume the public knows why we are doing this
“We need to win the arguments with the doubters,” he said. “We need to go back to basics to keep those people on side.”
In reference to the circular economy, Stewart there were “interesting opportunities” in terms of production, consumption, recycling and waste.
He spoke of a visit to the Netherlands where he had seen co-operation between Dutch and UK companies “seeing huge opportunities” with incinerator bottom ash, plastics and other materials. He also praised take-back schemes operated by Argos and Amazon and Jaguar’s closed loop strategy with aluminium.
“Don’t always assume the public knows why we are doing this,” he said. “We need to be better, us in Government as well, at being really, really, practical.”
Following a question and answer session, Stewart concluded by calling on everyone to be honest with each other: “It’s very convenient for politicians and companies to say things that sound good, without meaning them.”
ESA chairman Peter Gerstrom had welcomed Stewart by saying he had seen a positive shift in attitude towards the sector but there was a policy vacuum that needed strong leadership.