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Waste Managers Must Become Resource Managers – Collective Angst at Conference

The following article excerpt comes from the UK Environmental Business website After reading it please also visit their website as we would not wish to deny them of your patronage.

It seems that from this report there was a feeling of collective angst among the speakers and delegates about the role of “waste management” companies losing out if astute businesses cotton on to resource manage within their own business in a big way, and cut out the “third party” (waste companies) by “going it direct” so to speak, and also minimizing waste in such items as packaging, so that there is very little waste left for the waste management companies to make a profit out of processing.

To “the waster” this seems a little bit neurotic. The UK has only just now achieved a 40% MSW recycling rate, this is a huge way from “zero waste” and the household waste market will still remain even then. So, let's not get carried away by dwelling on such things. There is still everything to play for in the waste management sector in the UK. Read the following excerpt and see what you think:

ANALYSIS: Are we facing a waste identity crisis?

Fears are mounting that the waste industry could be left behind in the race towards a circular economy as it struggles to get to grips with better resource management.

One of the chief concerns from delegates at the industry's annual conference in London this week, hosted by the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), was how traditional waste companies can transform their business models to take advantage of new ways of working.

Plenty of rhetoric was in the air as ministers and academics heralded the dawn of a new era; one that goes beyond zero waste to landfill where waste is designed out of our system entirely. But this left many within the audience questioning exactly what role would be left for the sector if such a scenario were to transpire.

This was darkly illustrated in a message from David Fell, a director at research consultancy Brook Lyndhurst, who told delegates that the industry could be rendered extinct in 30 years' time if it failed to evolve.

His argument is that manufacturers are already starting to design waste out of their production processes. Likewise, retailers and consumer brands are recognising the value locked up in secondary materials and are looking for ways to mine that for their own gain.

This could see waste flows side-stepping conventional treatment and disposal routes and as competition for feedstock grows, only those waste companies that are able to extract the highest value out of the materials they garner are likely to prosper.

“It was a real wake-up call,” one delegate said. “You do wonder where this is going to leave us when you look ahead years from now.”

Some observers feel the sector is at the mercy of forces beyond its control and experiencing a crisis of confidence as it struggles to cope with a fast-changing agenda that is not being led from within, but outside of the industry.

According to leading climate change economist Dimitri Zenghelis who spoke at the conference, the likes of Unilever and Marks & Spencer will the future engines of change in waste management – not contractors or reprocessors. It is the brand owners that are creating ripples as they instigate pioneering initiatives to close the loop.

But they need help to do this – and some are trying to shake the industry into action. Boots UK's sustainable development manager Ian Barnes took to the podium and said that waste management companies cannot be merely transactional anymore, they need start adding value to their service.

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