Don't shoot the messenger!

In his only inaugural address on 20 January 1961, U. S President John F Kennedy famously uttered the words: "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country."


While a cynic might argue that those who despised what Kennedy stood for did the US and the wider world a massive favour by dispensing of the 35th president on 22 November 1963, how often do we actually stop and think about what we can do as individuals for the greater good?

One of David Cameron's most famous sound bites is that we are "all in this together". Frankly, while I personally don't think he has a leg to stand on, the bottom line is that there are too many vested interests for us to all "come together", as John Lennon famously sang.

As someone who is relatively new to the waste industry, I don't see this sector as an exception. Quite clearly, the industry is littered with those who would gain from pursuing certain approaches to waste management.   

For example, you go to one conference and you hear that "X" industry is the golden bullet that is going to solve our energy needs. Then, at the next event, you hear that "Y" industry ticks all the boxes and that through careful analysis you can show that "X" industry's approach is flawed. Who's right? Well, they'll all tell you that they are of course.

One of the interesting, modern developments in the waste industry is the increasing use of the buzz word "resource", which we are all being asked to use as a substitute for "waste".

Whereas traditionally we have been encouraged to ditch our unwanted items so that we can make space in our homes for the next "big thing" to hit the high street, this "unsustainable" process is starting to be redefined, and dare I say it, given a positive spin.

As waste increasingly takes on a value to those who can make a mint out of it, the industry is starting to "froth at the mouth" in anticipation of the potential rewards. You can almost hear the cash registers ringing.

Now I am not trying to be deliberately cynical nor am I attempting to promote a lifestyle that takes us back to the Stone Age. Of course, everyone has to make a living and we desperately need wealth generation to kick start our stuttering economy, but let us all be honest about this new perspective on waste.

Yes, waste probably should be repackaged as a resource and would probably contribute significantly to the UK's future economic wellbeing, but it is not being done for altruistic reasons and arguably not necessarily for the "greater good". There is self-interest at play here and we are certainly not "all in it together".

Nick Warburton

Topics: Waste & resource management
Tags: | David Cameron | waste management
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