Get resourceful as the time is now to add value

As CIWM gears up for its 21st show, chief executive Steve Lee charts the fast moving changes taking place in the industry as waste evolves into a resource

The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) notches up its 21st Torbay Conference and Exhibition this year. Over the past 21 years, an entire generation has grown up enjoying a period of prosperity and a period of increased waste growth and complexity never known before.

The waste management industry has also grown up over the same period, but we're not looking for the key to the door - we're looking for the key to the future. The waste business is fast becoming the resources business. Our job is becoming one of preventing waste, putting it back to work, or gaining value from what's left over.

We have to think about the environment and resources in a global sense - but must also maintain an essential service to protect people and the environment locally. This generation of wastes and resources managers will lead this quiet revolution. CIWM exists to develop and support them, because actually it's the people who make up the next generation of wastes/resources managers who will be the key to that future.

Looking back just a few short months confirms the pace of change. The Stern report has confirmed the importance of tackling climate change. Our industry is identified as the source of just 3% of greenhouse gas emissions, but our impact in terms of how we collect and manage wastes, and how we influence other resources users, at home and at work, gears up that impact significantly.

Moving up the political ladder
Wasting less and reusing/recycling more and gaining energy from residues puts waste thinking centre stage in this bigger policy picture. This year has seen clarification of how the WEEE producer responsibility will work.

We've had the Lyons report in England confirming waste management as one of the two most important impacts on local authorities, the Beecham review of local government in Wales, and changes equally important in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The budget confirmed a leap in landfill tax which will quickly make non-landfill options affordable - while at the same time confirming that the cost of good waste and resources management must continue to rise. We have had waste far too cheap for too long.

We now wait for the publication of the new English waste strategy which is certain to underline the links between our industry and 'big ticket' policy issues like climate change and energy supply.

What waits in the wings
The autumn will bring in pre-treatment requirements before waste can be landfilled; new proposals for the Duty of Care and site waste management plans - and changes to how all waste management facilities are regulated. All parts of the industry will be touched or gripped by at least one of these pressures.

And if all that change wasn't enough, we face important local elections in May and resources management is as high up the political and media flagpoles as it has ever been. Our industry, our performance, our decisions are under the spotlight - because they matter.

Waste has hit the boardroom and the bar-room as an important talking point. We have to influence the world around us, from Government departments and Europe, through to businesses big and small and people in their own homes where waste is considered as the most important service people get from their council.

Platform for debate
No-one has all of the answers to these local, regional, national and global issues but CIWM 2007 provides the forum for them to be debated. There will also be networking opportunities with like minded professionals in the sector and our conference programme is the largest ever with over 100 speakers.

Individual conference, briefing and technical sessions will cover global issues, development of strategic policy locally and internationally, resource recovery, achieving landfill diversion and recycling targets as well as specific technology options for treatment and disposal of wastes.

It is traditional in articles like this to say that these times are more challenging and more exciting than ever for this industry and that this conference and exhibition is more important to people in, around, and affected by this sector. But they are, and it is.

Knowledge is power
CIWM is based around the body of knowledge of over 7,000 professionals in this business. We are putting that to work, spreading information, skills and best practise - and influencing decision-makers at every conceivable level.

Our 21st Torbay event sees us coming together again - to network, to argue, to innovate and to learn - to protection local environmental quality, and build a future where waste is a global resource.

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