Resource Use

New CIWM President sets sights on improved reuse systems

Professor Margaret Bates, the new President of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), has prioritised action on waste prevention and reuse for the coming year.

New CIWM President for 2016/17 Professor Margaret Bates
Speaking at her inauguration today (18 October), Bates said: “Although the ways in which we treat and recycle waste are constantly improving, I am concerned that we focus too much on these aspects of the waste hierarchy without sufficient consideration of the options at the top, which will, I believe, be essential to delivering on a circular economy – whatever our UK version of a circular economy may be.”

Alongside the inauguration, which saw Bates take over the position from Professor Jim Baird, a report providing a look at the current position of reuse in the UK and the drivers that motivate it was launched.

‘Reuse in the UK – a State of the Nations Report’, written for CIWM by consultancies Beasley Associates and Ray Georgeson Resources, concludes that despite stakeholders believing that more should be done to stimulate reuse, a number of barriers need to be addressed.

The report finds that while the business case for reuse is broad – encompassing environmental, economic and social benefits – it is rarely articulated effectively and that financial constraints are also an issue. Using responses to surveys of four key groups – local authorities, reuse organisations, private waste management companies and housing associations – the report found that many expressed the need for more infrastructure and collection services, better communications and public engagement, and more good practice guidance. 

Bates added: “This is a relatively neglected area of waste policy and yet one which has so much to offer both in practical terms and as a vehicle to raise wider awareness about waste prevention – a difficult message to get across in today’s consumption-driven society. One of my aims during the next year is to explore how CIWM can act as a focal point for some of the recommendations put forward in this report.”

More industry collaboration needed to share best practice

Among the recommendations put forward in the report is the need for more co-ordination and collaborative working between industry bodies active in reuse that would help share knowledge and best practice.

It also suggests that skills building within the industry is required, as well as a more robust policy framework to make reuse more mainstream. The report proposes the establishment of a cross-sector group to review current reuse policy across the UK and assess the viability and effectiveness of further measures, including specific reuse targets, incentivisation through extended producer responsibility schemes, and standardised data collection metrics to improve reporting and benchmarking. 

Case studies of existing reuse activities are also highlighted in the report. These include the Furniture Re-use Network’s work with Ikea to promote the store’s take-back service in order to support households in need of furniture, WARP IT, which facilitates reuse within the public and private sectors, and Zero Waste Scotland’s strategic approach to developing reuse throughout the country.

Reflecting on these case studies, Bates said that the good work already being done to promote reuse should be recognised, as well as the challenges organisations face to improve services. She said: “For me and the other members of the project steering group, it was very important that this report was a positive piece of work, celebrating the successes of the reuse sector and drawing on all the great experiences and practices out there.

“We wanted a ‘State of the Nation’ report that acknowledged not only the challenges and issues, but really focused on the ways these had been overcome – a report that doesn’t just leave the reader thinking why you should reuse, but is more about, ‘Why on earth would you not reuse?’”

Profile

Professor of Sustainable Wastes Management at Northampton University, Bates has been involved in waste management for 25 years and has served as a member of the CIWM East Anglian Centre Council and Chair of CIWM’s Scientific and Technical Committee for the last six years.

She has also been involved in the discussion and development of national and international topics, including waste and human health, sustainable procurement, landfill fires, resource efficiency for businesses, and developing the policy and infrastructure for electronic waste in Africa.

As well as her academic and CIWM roles, Bates is a member of the Associate Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group (APSRG) Advisory Board and a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Resource Panel. She has advised the governments of Kenya and Nigeria on the development of policy relating to wastes management and delivered training on developing effective policy and regulation for other African governments through the United Nations University.  

Alongside her in the Presidential team for 2016/17 will be Senior Vice President Professor David Wilson MBE and incoming Junior Vice President Enda Kiernan.

In addition to the report on reuse, Bates revealed details of her presidential report for the coming year, which will shortly be published on the topic of technology’s impact on consumption.

The report, she suggested, would look into the potential effects of the proliferation of online shopping, the influence of millennials who see service as more important than ownership and the possible effect of smart technology on food waste.

CIWM’s ‘Reuse in the UK – a State of the Nations Report’ can be found on the CIWM website.