Paul Vanston, who heads up the Kent Waste Partnership, said that while private companies often couldn’t work closely together owing to competition law, local authorities could work more closely but often didn’t because of politics.

Speaking at the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management’s annual conference earlier this week, Vanston said: “The idea in this day and age that local authorities shouldn’t be looking out for their tax payers and be looking at whole costs of services could be seen by many on the outside as a dereliction of duty and partnerships should be doing much more on that front.”

Vanston conceded it was understandable that so much material had ended up in landfill considering the UK’s industrial heritage, but challenged this on-going approach to waste disposal.

“Is it acceptable for a country that has 200 years and more of industrial and economic development and is a G8 leading member for us to be still putting a third of resources into landfill? I would say that it not and we all need to be doing more.”

He said it was important for Defra to cement partnership working between local authority tiers and to ensure that joint municipal waste management strategies answered the needs of the private sector in terms of their business investment decisions.

“Kent is likely to spend about £1bn over the next 10 years and across the country that is going to be something like £30bn” he illustrated.

“If there isn’t a strategy in place at a local level to cover that, how on earth can private sector colleagues know where to invest their money, what their opportunities may be and how they can direct their own organisations to meet our needs?”

He also cited the WasteDataFlow system as another area for urgent action, calling for it to be less bureaucratic, more relevant, closer to real time and more supportive of the UK’s economic needs.

“It seems to me to be a system that we have designed to measure compliance with EU targets,” he said. “It needs to be more meaningful for the private sector as well as the public sector.”

Vanston added that while it was healthy for the UK to debate the merits of domestic recycling versus exporting recyclate, the real problem was illegal waste activities.

“When I looked at where Kent’s tonnage went for 2011-2012, 714,000 tonnes is household waste generated; 75% of that stayed in Kent, 20% stayed in the UK and 5% was exported abroad,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with that as long as all supply chain activities are legal.”

More coverage of CIWM’s annual conference:

Producer responsibility ‘failing’ on environmental design

Waste-manufacturing alliances crucial to delivering a circular economy

Leading economist declares ‘Waste is so last century’

Nick Warburton

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