Sustainability and CSR – what can we expect in 2016?
Now that 2015 has drawn to a close, many of us are preoccupied with wondering what 2016 might hold. Here are some of our thoughts, along with the views of a selection of other sustainability and waste management professionals.Food waste
It's likely we'll see increased pressure to reduce the quantity of food being discarded at home, in supermarkets and in the food production sector.At the same time, we will no doubt also witness further calls for leftover food waste to be banned from landfill and diverted into alternatives like anaerobic digestion (AD) instead, as well as the expansion of schemes like FareShare aimed at redistributing leftover food to the needy in society.
Recyclables2016 is almost certain to see commodity prices remain depressed and therefore UK recyclers remaining under pressure, with metals, cardboard and plastics set to continue to fetch low prices.
Neil Baldwin, head of sales and business development at Network Waste, says: "Commodity markets slid in 2015, and although I'd expect them to level out, I still think businesses are going to have to delve deeper into 'circular economy' thinking in order to find value."Although recycling will still prove attractive in order to avoid increasing landfill costs, with further investment being made in new and improved treatment technologies in Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) I'd certainly be expecting recycling gate fees to increase in order to support the investments being made."
Circular EconomyZoë Lenkiewicz, sustainability communications expert at www.zlcomms.co.uk, says: "I see two different patterns emerging: The first is in industrialised countries. I think that truly circular economy businesses will increase in number but remain niche, since consumers have not yet quit the habit of product ownership.
"In the meantime, major manufacturers will continue to claim circular economy leadership roles whilst increasing linear, non-sustainable, resource use."In developing countries, I see a growing urgency in the need to deal with trash. Waste has increased enormously in both quantity and complexity over the past 40 years, causing a vast range of crises – particularly for the poorest.
"Concerned professionals and other citizens around the world will be developing and sharing practical solutions, in an effort to counter government inabilities to manage waste."Household waste
In household waste, it's likely we'll see other councils trial monthly collections of residual waste, just like they are in Fife, in an effort to cut costs.We may also see a return to greater reliance on landfill.
From waste to resourceGareth Kane, sustainability practitioner at Terra Infirma, says: "My prediction for waste management in 2016 is that all those involved in the circular economy will stop seeing it from a waste management viewpoint and start seeing it as a source of raw materials.
"This vital paradigm shift from 'waste' to 'resource' has been talked about for the best part of two decades, but is seldom done properly. In particular, we need to stop obsessing on supply (eg recycling targets) and focus on the demand side - demand alone will drive up volumes, quality and cost-effectiveness, closing those loops."There were hints in the EU's revised circular economy package that a policy tipping point may be nearing, so let's hope the penny drops in 2016."
Landfill ratesAs local councils struggle with reduced budgets, there is a chance that we may see some chose to return to the practice of landfilling household waste rather than invest in kerbside or centralised MRF sorting for recycling in some cases, which could result in landfill volumes increasing in some parts of the country.
Compost Like Output (CLO), and other similar biosolids from Mechanical and Biological Treatment (MBT) facilities - often used in land reclamation - could also find themselves in landfill this year in some instances.Landfill Tax, the main instrument used to discourage reliance on landfilling waste, is set to rise from £82.60 to £84.40 from 1st April 2016.
Gate feesIt's difficult to predict with any certainty what we can expect to see from gate fees owing the many variables at local, regional and national scales, and the competing pressures that exist.
AD and composting operators, already reported to be struggling to source sufficient feedstock, are likely to continue slugging-it-out with low gate fees in order to compete for organic waste.Landfill prices, whilst relatively consistent across the UK, may vary more in some locations if councils do make a significant return to landfilling household waste and CLO/MBT biosolids.
With energy costs, in general, being lower in 2015 than they have for many years (partly as a result of the depressed price of oil, coupled with lower costs of coal and gas as a consequence of particularly mild weather) the operating costs of many waste handling processes can reasonably be expected to have fallen, with canny waste producers well positioned to use this in their negotiating strategies.Transport costs
With the global slump in the price of oil showing no signs of recovery, the costs of waste collection should also reasonably be expected to fall.The practice of applying so-called 'fuel surcharges' - adopted by a number of haulage businesses when the price of oil peaked at over $120 a barrel - should also now be all but eliminated.
Corporate Social Responsibility or CSRJohn Twitchen, env23, says: "My thoughts on 2015 are simple – there was an almighty turning point in the form of the VW scandal and a new phrase – ‘defeat devices’. Not only did this go far beyond “overstating” emissions performance and fuel efficiency, it has created doubt in the regulation and corporate governance of a major multinational which only greater transparency by all major businesses can overcome (and must be done to ensure they operate beyond reasonable doubt).
"My personal view at the time the storm broke remains unchanged: immense good will come from it in the form of a renewed focus in 2016 and beyond on hybrid and electric vehicles where emissions are at worst displaced and in many cases environmental performance is significantly enhanced."