The surprise announcement of a general election means that our industry is likely to go into overdrive in the next few weeks, calling on Governments, prospective Governments and all politicians in general to listen to what they have to say about waste, recycling and resource management. Some groups have already started.
But is it a case of feeling like you should do something rather than feeling like what you are doing is being effective? There hasn’t been a great deal of evidence from Ministers within DEFRA that waste is high up their agenda and even less evidence that DEFRA (floods aside) is high up the overall Government agenda. I cannot imagine, with the mood of the country and the national media as it is since the referendum vote, that politicians campaigning on the doorstep are going to be quizzed on their views on the merits of kerbside sort over co-mingling or the state of the plastics reprocessing market in the UK. These things may float our boat, but the lady and man on the Clapham omnibus, well might feel they have more pressing priorities in their lives.
So, it is unlikely LARAC will be issuing one of these calls to arms and instead will continue to work behind the scenes, building relationships with DEFRA officials and inputting into the wide range of industry groups that keep churning whilst the politicians have a break from calling each other names and arguing, to calling each other names and arguing!
If we were to state what we think we needed fixing we would focus on two aspects, Direct Charging and Producer Responsibility. We think both are key to completely redesigning how local authority waste services are funded and how we get the Clapham omnibus passengers engaged more in dealing with the waste from the stuff they buy. This means a complete rethink of the PRN system and probably doing away with it totally, not something many currently advocate. What would replace it? Well that is a good question and we don’t know the answer but we know it is not generating the funds to enhance collections.
Did you know the PRN system is actually 20 years old – it predates Google!! That doesn’t mean because it’s old it needs changing (otherwise I am in trouble) but it does mean it was conceived and designed in very different times, when a different set of questions were being posed. Whilst it is impossible to ignore the systems and process you already have in place there really is a place for starting with a blank sheet of paper. What would the questions look like today with regard to increasing the amount of packaging being recycled and how that could be funded? I would imagine the massive reductions in local authority budgets would be a major part of the discussion.
So, watch this space, not now, there is far too much noise and shouting going on. But maybe in a few months we might just have something to say to Government ourselves on a couple of meaty policy issues.