Marching on: a presidential portrait

It's not often you can say you've spent time with the president, but then that person happens to be the very approachable Terry March, who has just finished serving his term of office as president for the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management. The CIWM presidency is one of the industry's most respected positions and I caught up with March during his visit at Dublin's Resource Ireland show in October, to find out what had it meant for him.

March started his career in local government, working on maintenance for refuse vehicles. He stayed with the same authority (Bristol City Council) for decades and worked his way up into senior management. In 1996 he left to set up his own consultancy, T March Consultants, where he works with councils and contractors on tendering and bidding processes, new service implementation, training, and general troubleshooting.

This wealth of experience, coupled with his long association with CIWM – he is secretary of the South West Centre, a general councillor since 1987, the first chairman of the institution’s education, training and membership committee as well as sitting on the executive committee – undoubtedly stood him in good stead for the presidency.

“I’ve always thought greatly of the presidency, but never aspired to it, it took me some persuading in the end,” he reveals. “But the time I’ve put into the role is like putting my time back into the industry and I have a real passion for the industry so I’m happy to do that. The presidency is still highly respected as a position – when I go to places, people really appreciate it and it is a morale booster for them. And that is what the institution is all about.”

Training is where March’s real passion lies, especially with the new crop of waste and resource practitioners coming through. “During my presidency, I wanted to have involvement with the new generation. We’ve got these new generation groups across the institution which look to encourage younger people and graduates, or anyone new to the industry. These groups will do site visits and attend careers events, and it was the training angle I was looking to pursue with them,” he explains.

I ask him if he’s worried with all the cutbacks that councils and firms are facing if skills and training needs will suffer in the process. “Yes, especially after we come out of the recession, as companies are going to find it hard to hang onto their staff if they aren’t trained – these people will want to go somewhere else where they can get that training.”

Councils in particular will be under intense pressure to deliver more from less, and March believes the need to “bulk up” will be critical going forward. “It’s starting to happen now, local authorities working together on purchasing power. Local to me is the Somerset Waste Partnership that is saving over £1M a year. Instead of having seven district councils doing seven different things, you have one waste partnership with the purchasing ability.”

He adds that authorities are going to have to learn how to “break down barriers” with each other and come together to sahre organisational structures such as technical support and facilities – even staff. “It’s not going to be easy in some cases,” he admits. But the economies of scale when it comes to procurement will be immense. “Imagine how many refuse vehicles are purchased across the country. If you could go to a manufacturer and say ‘I don’t want ten vehicles this year, I want 1,000 – imagine what a deal you could get.”

While there are tough times ahead, March sees light at the end of the tunnel and is confident the industry will “bounce back” and continue to grow. He is looking forward to a time when the word ‘waste’ will truly evolve into ‘resource’ perhaps ten years from now. “People think the word ‘resource’ is just an add-on, but it isn’t, waste is a resource and it has a value. If you define the word ‘waste’ as being something that isn’t needed and is discarded then there won’t be any waste – as long as we work towards recovery in zero waste terms.”

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