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Obituary: Chris Coggins 1947-2017

Dr Jane Beasley pays tribute to Professor Chris Coggins, who died last week at the age of 69.

It is fair to say that Professor Chris Coggins PGCE PhD FCIWM FRGS FRSA is the reason I have spent my entire working life involved in the waste sector. The messages that have been appearing on social media since his passing last week at the age of 69 show that I am not alone; for many people, Chris has had a significant impact on their career.

Chris was my PhD supervisor in the 1990s when he ran a dedicated waste research centre in Luton. He was ahead of the game in terms of identifying and driving forward research areas to investigate and was a leading academic working with other forerunners in seeking evidence to better understand all aspects of waste generation and the impact of its management. In fact, although it was before my time, Chris had been one of the researchers responsible for securing funding to establish a programme of waste research at Warren Spring Laboratory – the government’s research lab into minerals and waste. This led the way into early waste compositional studies and behaviour analysis.

Chris set up one of the first post-graduate courses in waste management at the University of Luton, which enabled those working in waste to get a formal qualification and also provided a pathway in for those wanting to start a new career in the sector. A significant number of alumni who graduated with an MSc in Waste Management from Luton now hold leading positions with the waste sector.

Chris worked his way up to becoming a Reader in Waste Management and he later went on to become Director of the University of Sheffield’s Waste Management and Technology Centre where he worked with a range of businesses and organisations and was focused on resource efficiency. Indeed, when he left Sheffield and ran his own consultancy, he maintained an active interest into resource efficiency and whole-system solutions.

He was a prominent member of the sector, serving as an adviser on many special interest groups and committees, including Defra’s New Technologies Demonstrator Programme, and various CIWM groups. He was often invited to give guest lectures at conferences and research institutes at home and abroad and presented evidence to parliamentary select committees.

A stickler for detail, Chris was extremely well known for having an encyclopaedic knowledge of waste research papers and reports and was the author of a great many himself. He always spoke his mind and had strong opinions that he was never afraid to share, but essentially, he was extremely passionate about waste management. This was a subject that he devoted much of his working life to and it’s beyond doubt that, especially at the peak of his career, he made a real difference.