Bassam Mahfouz, Ealing council’s cabinet member for environment and transport, told the conference about his experience in London in tackling a slowdown in improvements in recycling rates, in the face of shrinking budgets for local authorities.
Councillor Mahfouz – also a member of the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB) – highlighted the particular difficulty of recycling in densely-populated areas like London:
“We have seen stagnation in central London areas because of recycling contamination and things like that. There is also less paper about, as well as increased lightweighting.”
But he added, although communication was key to limiting household waste generation in Ealing, there was also now a particular need to target waste outside the home and workplace:
“We are also consuming more outside. But there are too few opportunities for recycling on the go.”
Also speaking at the conference, was the Waste & Resources Action Programme’s (WRAP) head of collections and quality, Linda Crichton, who highlighted the importance of communication initiatives between councils and residents.
She said that for local authorities waste prevention is “in the main part about behaviour change” and promoting the cause to residents, adding that councils could deliver the greatest boost to waste prevention through reducing food waste and keeping clothing and other textiles in use for longer.
Elsewhere, Ian McAulay, chief executive of waste management company Viridor, spoke about optimal decision making in the waste and recycling sector.
Describing the industry as “an immature and evolving market”, McAulay said it was important for companies to consider all of the many varying past, current and future factors before making decisions on investments and business strategy.
However, he suggested there were no right or wrongs when it came to decisions, using the example there is no absolute and correct system of waste and recycling collection, with many variations throughout the UK. When it comes to decisions, he said: “Absolutes are the enemy of progress.”
He added: “I subscribe to the theory that there are very few bad decisions. If you are too scared to make a decision then you won’t get anywhere.”