With a fresh new year ahead – and the added spice of a general election – MRW asks a number of industry representatives what they hope to see on the agenda
Mark Wilson, partner, Catalyst Corporate Finance
This year will prove to be pivotal with regards to investment flows in the UK waste and resource management industry. There are two principle reasons for this.
The investment and lending community has demonstrated that it is prepared to provide project finance to advanced thermal treatment technology, most recently in the Derby energy from- waste (EfW) project using gasification. This development, coupled with the end of PFI funding and a rising price of refuse-derived fuel export, makes the economic case for community- scale EfW more attractive to institutional investors and banks.
The recycling industry continues to be hugely sensitive to external shocks – whether that means a rapid decrease in the oil price or changes in demand from export countries such as China. In order to absorb such shocks, there is a need to have scale and access to capital.
We will see a range of acquisitions in 2015 as consolidation across the recycling supply chain takes place.
Fiona Ross, associate, Pinsent Masons
The new year is a time for reflection on what has been achieved and looking forward to new challenges. In 2014, the European Commission published its circular economy package that emphasised the value of waste to the economy and proposed new targets for recycling and reuse, as well as landfill bans for some materials.
Although the Commission announced before Christmas that the proposals would be dropped and “more ambitious” measures put forward in 2015, the initial package was widely praised as being necessary to drive the step change in waste management practices that are needed for a truly sustainable economy.
It would be great to see waste policy progress in that vein during 2015.
Ian Hetherington, director general, British Metals Recycling Association
Continuing shortages of metal scrap and uncertain markets characterised 2014, as the new licensing regime for scrap metal dealers beds in very slowly. Fears over patchy enforcement of the ban on cash transactions along with derisory sentences for the few that have been found guilty of breaking the law have made the situation worse. Despite the financial uncertainty as key sectors continue to be depressed, the metal recycling industry has continued to invest, innovate and achieve ever higher recycling rates in key areas.
I look forward to improved economic conditions for the demolition and engineering sectors and the consequent increase in the volume of scrap metal available.
I hope, rather than expect, that there will be a full debate in the lead-up to the election on the wider subject of waste, reuse, recycling, resources and the treatment of unrecyclable residues rather than the fractured sub-topical monologues that have characterised the past year.
The next Government has to play a decisive role in Europe as the revisions to the Waste Framework Directive are debated, then follow up with a comprehensive set of core policies in this arena to provide certainty and inform industry investment decisions during the next five years.
Philip Simpson, commercial director, ReFood
What I really want to see for the sector is strength in policy. If the recycling industry is going to develop further, then we need to see a clear commitment from the Government. England is falling behind other EU nations, including its UK counterparts, and this is due to a lack of regulation and support from those in power.
Ultimately, we need to achieve behavioural change across businesses, councils and individuals to increase recycling in the UK, particularly food waste, and meet wider global targets. One way of doing this is through phased legislation and decisive frameworks. I would like to see a national waste strategy that focuses on separating waste for recycling and introduces landfill bans in the longer term.
I think the driver for change has to come from Defra. This is how we will ensure businesses and homes eradicate food waste from landfill and the UK makes greater traction towards important waste milestones.
Jacqueline O’Donovan, managing director, O’Donovan Waste Disposal
For 2015, regulation needs to be more clearly defined to strengthen the waste industry. It must be clear for all to follow and not create an unnecessary administrative burden. I would also encourage more support and guidance for those aiming to improve their procedures and processes to achieve the standards being set.
The call for greater clarity applies to all communications. If stakeholders, operators and the general public are communicated to clearly and there is a consistent approach to recycling in the UK, then targets are more likely to be met. Complexity just adds another barrier to increasing recycling rates.
We also desperately need quicker decisions on infrastructure projects so the industry can continue to move forward at a manageable pace. If the Government led by example here, local authorities could follow in a bid to reduce complexity and red tape.
Kate Cawley, creative director, Veris Strategies
Having recently relaunched the business from WasteSolve to Veris, I would like 2015 to be the year of collaboration. We actively collaborate with like-minded organisations and clients because we recognise that, to really tackle social and environmental challenges, we need to embrace openness and recognise that we cannot solve these issues on our own.
By working collaboratively for what we term at Veris as ‘collective impact’, a true step change can happen with faster, stronger results. It is about embracing the shared value concept and taking sustainability seriously as a fundamental business strategy.
As members of younger generations start to look beyond price and frame their own ‘ticklist’ of values, investment in collaborative corporate social responsibility strategies that translate to the consumer represents a key arena of opportunity.
Herman van der Meij, managing director, Viridor Resource Management:
At the airport in Amsterdam, I looked at travellers hurriedly buying Christmas gifts. I am reminded of the year gone by: from our company’s roll-out of recycling and energy technologies to more personal highlights, like the Commonwealth Games. They are why I’m optimistic about the year to come.
The strapline was simple: People Make Glasgow. That is true – it was people such as the volunteers who reminded visitors why recycling matters. It was people who worked through the night to collect and process resources which made the games the greenest yet.
And it is people building a national network of next-generation infrastructure to transform how we view and manage what once was viewed as waste.
So to each of those people and to you – the real pioneers of the circular economy – here is to a resourceful new year.