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Waste bosses condemn UK ‘policy vacuum’

Waste bosses have described a policy vacuum in the UK caused by the Government being “fundamentally not interested” in the energy-from-waste (EfW) sector.

The heads of Viridor and FCC Environment both called for direction from the Government and described difficulties in getting ministers’ interest, in a debate at the World Waste To Energy summit in London.

Viridor chief executive Ian McAulay (pictured) met policy-makers including resources minister Rory Stewart on 10 May, and said that attempts to talk about more technical aspects of the industry got nowhere.

“Frankly, they don’t care. If you are talking about jobs, if you are talking about investment, if you are talking about value and making them electable, then they will listen,” he said.

“If you want to talk to a Government minister about waste-to-energy technology, my advice would be do not bother.

“What we’ve been asked to do by Rory is look at what the big policy asks are. I think it is a step forward because it means people are listening. But we could not go along and talk about technology.”

586 Paul Taylor

586 Paul Taylor

FCC chief executive Paul Taylor (right) said a long-term policy focus was needed and joked that he was tempted to ask Stewart: “How long are you going to be in this job?”

“My fear is that, because, fundamentally, they are not interested, they can play politics. They say the right words but will they actually do something about it?”

In response to a question from Jim Baird, the chairman and Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) president, he said that it would not be a backward step for UK environmental policy if the country voted in the June referendum to leave the EU.

“It is clear that the whole industry has been driven by EU legislation so the industry in the UK would not be where it is today without [that] legislation. But in a lot of cases, the Governments in the UK have gone way beyond EU legislation.

“It is wrong to say that without being part of Europe there would be some fundamental shift in the basic laws. I don’t see any of the laws we currently have being repealed.”

Baird said a significant majority of CIWM members responding to a recent poll thought the EU had been good for the sector.

“The concern is, if not Europe, then what? There is no clarity of direction about what we might expect from a Brexit.”

  • This article was amended on 25 May to make it clear the issue that concerned the chief executives was the EfW sector rather than the industry as a whole.

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