This year’s LARAC 2018 conference was another fabulous success! It was great to meet the newest group of LARAC scholars, proudly sponsored by REPIC. We kicked off the event with a presentation on the WEEE regulations, and this stirred up a good debate in the room around Extended Producer Responsibility. The scholars were all really engaged and there were lots of strong opinions on what the future should hold for council waste services and producer responsibility.

The conference itself started with a strong keynote address from Mary Creagh MP, whose frankness was refreshing regarding the future of waste under the uncertainty of Brexit. Following this, I really enjoyed listening to Chris Preston from DEFRA and Entrepreneur Brendan Fatchett – especially in the debate that followed. Discussions centred around policy, planning and whether government bureaucracy is stifling and counterproductive to SMEs who have the potential to provide new and innovative services. Is the government missing out as a result?

There was potential for Ollie Rosevear Head of Environment for Costa Coffee to be the villain of the conference as so many people are against the dreaded single use coffee cup! However, Ollie set the record straight by explaining how his company is in fact trying hard to reduce waste and encourage recycling through investment. He also reminded me that I should remember to take a reusable cup if I go to Costa to get a 25p discount!

There were many highlights of the conference, particularly from local authority case studies. Have recycling rates stagnated and why? The question of standardised collections came up once again as a means to give one clear message to consumers and maximise recycling rates. With so many regions in the UK displaying differing population densities and housing types, as well as variable availability and standards of facilities to handle the waste, is it really possible to completely standardise household waste collections?

Post-conference, I am looking forward to meeting up with the scholars (below) again as part of REPIC’s extended programme which enables their experience to go beyond the three days of the conference alone. Each year we invite the scholars to take part in activities such as writing blog posts, visiting a recycling plant for waste electricals or taking part in round table discussions on e-waste recycling. The feedback from these activities has been nothing but positive and at the end of each year the scholars return to their departments with new knowledge and fresh ideas.