Achieving the right balance

Good waste policies are borne of a thorough understanding of all kinds of impacting factors. Founder and President of ACR+, Jean-Pierre Hannequart, explains the importance of keeping many plates in the air

The waste industry is big business, no doubt about it. Last valued at around £9 billion in the UK alone, many have found their fiscal treasure in another man’s trash. But the relationship between waste and the bottom line is a complicated one – one which Jean-Pierre Hannequart now understands well, though he came to the industry in a rather roundabout way.

Jean-Pierre HannequartStarting out, Hannequart was a barrister based in the south of Belgium before he moved to Cambridge to work on his English. There he met a girl with whom he moved to Algeria and later back to Europe, where he subsequently spent two years rearing animals and growing vegetables. But this was no Good Life scenario. Hannequart impresses the belief behind his lifestyle then: “I was a member of a community movement. The idea was that not everything needed to be done individually, and so it wasn’t necessary to work full time.” But that’s not to say Hannequart spent his free time lying in the sun. After reading about the political ecological movement, Hannequart’s interest in environmental issues escalated, and after working with the Consul of Europe, NATO and the German Institute on such matters at a European level – and five years as a member of the technical group for the Green Party within the European Parliament – Hannequart found himself as a consultant for the OECD and later responsible for the waste management plan with the Environment Department of Brussels, a role through which he saw the need for ACR+ (Association of Cities and Regions for Recycling and Sustainable Resource Management), the organisation he now heads.

“I created ACR+ as a sort of complementary activity to the waste plan”, he says, “as a permanent network to exchange information and experiences with other regional authorities.” But this wasn’t the only motivation behind the creation of ACR+. “In the first instance we looked at how many cities and regions in Europe, the US and Canada were using selective waste collection [source separated collections], because my aim was to promote selective collection and stop the investment in to more incineration plants in Brussels”, says Hannequart. “We already had so many, catering for around 500,000 tonnes.”