I'm a consumer, get me out of here
What struck me most about the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management's conference in June was how little the general public is engaged in the debate around waste and recycling and the difficult decisions that lie ahead.
The event was packed with industry experts, policy advisers, local authority officers, community groups and opinion formers from think tanks. Everyone seemed to have a firm grasp of the policy issues and the actions that are needed to create a zero waste economy.
Central government and local authorities do relay many of the waste and recycling messages down to the local community level. However, my feeling is that the general public gets to hear only part of the story.
Having only been in post a few months, I am still developing my knowledge around growing industries like anaerobic digestion and biogas. I'd like to think that I came into the role with a fairly good grasp of many of the issues around waste and recycling, having previously worked for an environment and health magazine.
But as a consumer, I have to admit to being somewhat in the dark when it comes to facing up to the challenges ahead. Like most members of the public, I try to do my bit by recycling paper, cardboard, food waste and some plastics.
Yet, I can't help but feel that government, like on the debate around electoral reform, is avoiding having a frank and honest discussion about the implications of our actions or non-actions.
The public doesn't need a nanny state, but nor does it need a government that buries its head in the sand. We need to have that two-way conversation on some of the more uncomfortable truths – like how we square a consumer-driven society with the goals of a zero waste economy and what that might mean for lifestyle choices and the implications/outcomes of our decisions.