This is what we do

Dan Cooke presidential address 2023 – ‘this is what we do’ 

Social Value, World Class Recycling & Resource Management Services, and Circular Economy Pathfinders – It’s What We Do Best. If like me when you travel around, you can’t resist checking out the recycling systems, waste collection services and resource management facilities, as well as ‘looking under the bin lid’ at their policy and approaches, then it’s always interesting to compare with what we know from the UK.   

This may seem ‘geeky’ to some, but if you know, you know... 

Whenever we do this, it becomes obvious that the services provided herein the UK, and the c. 140,000 dedicated and professional people that deliver them, are often at the leading edge of quality and innovation, delivering better resource efficiency and protecting our health and environment in ways that provide deep social value and are, often, simply world-class. 

The purpose of this year’s CIWM President’s report is to emphasise and celebrate the vital role and the social value of our sector and those that work across it. Delivering essential services that touch every individual, business and organisation in the UK, we are an essential hub helping other sectors to drive a more circular economy towards net zero emissions. 

This year’s report highlights a sample of the sector’s successes and further potential, as UK recycling and resource management continues to lead, to innovate, and to adapt and rise to the challenges. 

We know what these challenges are, and we should robustly acknowledge and embrace them.  We are faced with the challenges created by mega-trends of continued population growth, cheap materials, rampant consumerism, and of course the climate and biodiversity emergencies.  

And yet our sector continues to adapt and to build on the substantial progress of recent years: New technologies being deployed and refined in cleansing, collections, recycling and recovery; £5 billion invested over the past decade in vital infrastructure; We have pressed for, and welcomed, new policy measures in the recent Environment Act that will further transform the way we manage, recycle and recover waste and resources on behalf of households and commercial and industrial producers. 

We know we have a central and crucial role to play as society continues to address the defining challenges of climate change and the depletion of resources and nature. Across the world, the top four associations with the word ‘sustainability’ link heavily to themes around energy, environment, waste, and climate change. 

So, let’s acknowledge the essential benefits and social value our sector in the UK provides, and the diverse and inspiring people delivering those services.  And let’s continue to strive for, and to highlight, the exemplars, game-changers and pathfinders in our continued progress towards real resource efficiency and a more circular economy. Because world class recycling and resource management is what we do!