Viridor’s chief executive, Ian McAulay, has said that in some respects departments in government are contradicting each other, saying the demand for high quality materials but low commodity prices is an “out of balance model”.
Speaking at the All-Party Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group (APSRG) event on Monday (9 March), McAulay stressed the importance of moving away from calling end of life materials “waste” and towards calling them “resources”.
He said: “From my perspective, waste is what’s left after we’ve done everything we can with the materials – recycle, reuse, reconditioning – waste is a small fraction of these materials. So I don’t know why we refer to the waste sector when it should be referred to resources”.
He pointed said that the industry is standing at a point of inflection and is becoming disaggregated.
“Government departments are contradicting each other in some places,” he said. “Processing costs have increased in the past few years and quality standards are being pushed up as well. We want high quality materials but low commodity prices – it’s an out of balance model.”
Discussing the possibility of a National Resource Council, McAulay stressed the importance that thoughts and leadership will have to be supported by action on the ground.
The event, “Boosting Britain’s Circular Economy: Policy Priorities for the next Parliament”, in partnership with Viridor, brought together APSRG members and parliamentarians to discuss concerns around the scrapping of the EU Circular Economy package in December 2014.
Also discussed was what a new, “more ambitious” package could look like, what role the UK government could play in shaping this package as well as what UK policies might be needed in the future to reach circularity and become a more resource efficient society.
Opening the event, the Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP stressed the importance of moving away from the linear pattern of creating, consuming and disposing and said: “Particularly at this stage of the Parliamentary cycle it is vital that the UK industry gets involved as some of the usual structures that Parliament has in place to apply pressure will fall apart for a few weeks leading up to the general election.”
Ian McAulay –“Government departments are contradicting each other in some places,” he said. “Processing costs have increased in the past few years and quality standards are being pushed up as well. We want high quality materials but low commodity prices – it’s an out of balance model”
Speaking on what the new package should look like, David Taylor, director of contract services, Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority (GMWDA) said that it needs to look not just at top down tonnage targets, but it has to look at every aspect of the production chain, consumption, reuse, design, and then at the end, disposal.
“Market development has to go hand in hand with more stringent targets, as we can’t collect materials if there is no market for them,” he said.
David Baldock, chief executive of the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) riterated the need for the UK government to get involved in the EU agenda. He said: “There are people who realise that there is a new model out there and it isn’t all business as usual and there is something to be gained. It would be extremely helpful if the UK government would get involved… this is an opportunity to have a more positive EU agenda and a more positive UK agenda as well.”
Professor Paul Ekins, director of the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources, rounded up the presentations and focussed on the importance of making a reality of extended producer responsibility in moving towards a more circular economy.
He said: “The current situation is one where predominantly products are put into market and one where consumers pay for product disposal, either directly or through their taxes. This is extremely inefficient and the incentives are all wrong – we are not talking about zero value waste but about negative value waste… Extended producer responsibility will reverse this situation… and it will generate the information, the incentives and the investment required to stop material becoming waste. And I believe that is what a circular economy requires.”