Having returned to work after a couple of weeks off, I have been piling through the backlog of e-mails, trying to pick up the threads where I left off and see what is new!
Amongst the rubble that is my inbox, were a couple of requests for input to consultation responses, always with short turn around periods. I did however, don my thinking cap and provide some words containing the sum of my nuggets of wisdom.
I found this to be a useful exercise, it got me thinking and helped me to tie together some issues that had been floating around in the backwaters of my consciousness. In writing out my thoughts, it helped to distil some ideas about what the problems facing us are and how we might begin to respond.
The consultations in question are on waste planning guidance and waste prevention, both closely linked and essential parts of planning and developing our service infrastructure. The problems are many; lack of accurate data, a need to change behaviours and mixed messages to name but a few.
Amongst these problems, one that I feel hasn't been properly explored, is how planning links to historic data and fails to meet needs for future proofing. In terms of infrastructure and investment in the right technologies, this might in part be due to the lack of investment that is currently available or that the policy incentives that are in place don't offer the correct balance.
If you plan your infrastructure needs based upon data collected during an economic downturn, can it be a reliable benchmark for future provision. Can it also be sufficient to drive the changes needed to meet targets, social and economic aspirations?
What I think needs to be addressed, is how will we deal with a rapidly growing population and and an economic recovery (even a weak one). In my estimation, waste prevention and resource efficiency measures will struggle to off-set these drivers for growth in waste generation. If that is the case, then planning for nil growth in waste generation over the next 20 years could leave us with a significant capacity shortfall.
I hope to deliberate on some of these issues more in future blogs, but at least for now, the seed has been sown!