CIWM President calls for clear vision of the future

The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management reports a record attendance at this year's conference and exhibition held at Torbay in June, with over 6,000 visitors viewing products and services on show from 360 companies and organisations. The conference and workshop sessions attracted 580 delegates who heard the incoming President, Stephen Aston, take a fresh look at the major waste issues, focussing on the need to engage waste producers at the earliest stages and the importance of moving towards a resource management culture.

In a stimulating Presidential Address, Stephen Aston, who is Head of Waste Management and Contaminated Land, at the Department of the Environment, Northern Ireland, told CIWM delegates, “If you are sitting comfortably, you shouldn’t be. The world of waste you know is changing a rate that is likely to put us all in a spin.”

He said that controls were moving from tightening industry standards to deepening involvement and responsibility along the supply chain. The new generation of directives were about: Integrated Product Policy and Civil Liability -” a small step for waste managers and a giant step for manufacturing kind.”

Mr Aston said: “Low cost, low technology disposal has been the dominant public perspective of the waste industry. Even though the systems and techniques have advanced considerably it is no longer appropriate to debate the range of technological solutions available to manage the various waste streams.

“The issue isn’t around the Orwellian argument between incineration and landfill on the ‘four legs good, two legs bad’ principle. The real issues are about perceptions and behaviour, and the influence of true cost economics on materials management.”

The CIWM President stated that whilst progress had been made in attracting attention towards corporate and individual responsibility, costs still remained too low to motivate either producers or consumers, and sophisticated technology applied to effect permanent change.

Shaping the future

Stephen Aston argued: “To shape the future we want we must first have a clear vision. What might that include? By 2005 the top FTSE 100 companies producing mandatory environmental reports?

“Whilst mandatory reporting may not be appropriate for SMEs, perhaps we might see by 2010, 95% of SMEs clearly demonstrating environmental awareness. Or maybe by 2020, 80% of all companies will be operating a Materials Management Policy.

“Whatever the vision,” he continued, “it must be shared if it is to be realised. Each partner to that vision must look back from the future to see what steps must be taken. Otherwise, it will remain a dream.”

In a concluding call to the CIWM Conference, the President declared: “It is not a time to be timid, and we will only become as good as we dare to fail. Failure is not a crime. Failure to act is. It is time to reach out.”

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