Why social engagement in the waste sector is important

Written by: Dr Adam Read | Published:
Dr Adam Read, external affairs director at Suez
Feeling totally up-lifted now Adam. I suggest a waste and recycling olympic games

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Each month Dr Adam Read, external affairs director at Suez, discusses the big issues. For September, he reflects on how networking and quality social time remains core to the waste sector.

I am definitely excited now!

I start my new role with Suez this week, which may seem to many of you to have been building for some time now, and true it has been four months in the making, but now that I am packing my bag, grabbing my new laptop, and transferring my contacts database across to my new smart phone. It all seems so much more real, and of course with that comes butterflies and some trepidation. But I am also in a very good mood, and I wanted to share that with you all.

However, given the impending nature of my new start in Maidenhead and a five-year-old trying to enjoy the last day of his summer holiday I intend to keep this blog short and sweet!

So what is exciting me?

Well apart from the new role, and the opportunity to make things really happen in the sector, working with a great team of people on new services, new infrastructure and new ways of thinking and delivering, I remain both surprised and delighted about the camaraderie and feeling of good will that still exists in our sector. Even with Brexit uncertainties, a lack of clear government leadership, local government funding concerns, ongoing data debates and a few political mantras getting in the way of the sector from doing what is right and makes sense.

The Waste World Cup

This was best demonstrated last Friday, when having had my final send-off from colleagues at Ricardo on the Thursday I was able to spend Friday with my son and father at the Waste World Cup at Northampton University. Potentially three generations of wasters, and definitely three generations of football fans and players came together with the great and good of the sector to enjoy the sunshine, BBQ, competition and buzz.

The event has been running for pretty much 20 years, dating back to the good old days when Northampton University ran it on a shoestring, and I remember back to that first competition with a great deal of warmth as my team from ERM were crowned champions, and I was presented with the cup by Chris Murphy Deputy CEO of CIWM (some things seem to never change).

Now the quality of football may have improved a bit, and the level of competition increased, with 30 teams on show this year, but the camaraderie was there for all to see. In between fiercely fought battles between the likes of Suez, Veolia, Grundons, Biffa and Valpak, there was plenty of good humour, bonding, catching up with old colleagues and former employers, and general sectoral chit-chat.

Now if we blend in good food, cheap drinks and an ice-cream van, plus cash bonuses for the top bin challenge and the crossbar challenge, and some summer sunshine, I challenge you to find a better way to spend your day as a player, manager of spectator. And congratulations to Mick George for its victory this year!

I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with my family- immediate and industry-wide, and catching up with old colleagues, former clients, good friends, and people I haven’t seen for a decade or more. And I reckon we all need a bit of sector fun in our lives, whether that be an ESA organised Golf Day, a Waste Aid sponsored mountain hike, or a CIWM celebrity cricket match (these were all fixtures in the sector diary a few year’s back).

So can I implore you all to give this types of day out a try, embrace them corporately, and recognise that a happy workforce are a productive workforce, and that who you know and your relationships with them is almost as important as any tender opportunity. I didn’t come away with a contract, nor would I expect to, but I did pick up some useful gossip, touch base with a few key targets and generally make sure that people know where I am and what I am up to.

But if a football tournament isn’t for you, and you don’t like golf, then step forward with your own ideas of what might be a good one day social to help the waste sector enjoy itself and one another’s company. Send a tweet / message to CIWM, ESA, or RWM and I am sure one of them will help make it a reality!

But in the meantime we have the sector’s biggest show in under seven days at the NEC, and that can be just as effective for those of you looking to reacquaint yourself with the big debates, catch up with old friends, and have a good time (if you like pitch and a pint or any one of the other activities that will be available at the exhibitor stands).

RWM, making the most of the opportunities

RWM this year is perfectly timed for me, and I have meetings on each of the three days in terms of catching up with key contacts. But it is more than just a social and networking opportunity, as the programme of seminars and workshops is excellent.

I am planning on going to 10 sessions at present covering off a broad range of pertinent topics from waste data availability and usefulness to sessions on local authority insourcing, secondary resource markets, site based consultation & engagement, and energy from waste process efficiency. There is absolutely something here for everyone, so take a look at the website, and plan your visit!

In addition I will be supporting my colleagues at a number of other workshops. Suez presenters include: David Palmer-Jones (CEO), Stuart Hayward- Higham (Technical Development Director), Andy Hill (Market Development Director), Sarah Ottaway (Municipal Recycling Manager) and Andy Mayo (Alternative Fuels Biomass Development Manager), and this demonstrates just how seriously Suez take the opportunity that RWM presents to showcase new innovations, share best practice case studies and be part of the large debates that are central to our sector.

I will also be attending the launch of our new report on residual waste infrastructure capacity entitled ‘Mind the Gap 2017-2030’. The UK is facing a significant shortage in waste treatment infrastructure as landfill sites close at a faster rate than anticipated. To mitigate this capacity deficit, resource management companies are looking for other more sustainable disposal solutions, such as energy-from-waste (EfW) facilities.

However, Suez’s research has indicated that over the next decade, although the capacity “gap” will decrease, we will still be faced with a domestic treatment shortfall of approximately three million tonnes by 2030, even taking into consideration the construction of all EfW facilities currently in the pipeline. The report explores the impact that this shortfall will have on UK resource management, the part Brexit has to play in the matter, and the cost of trying to close the “gap” for the government, businesses and taxpayers.

I would be delighted if you could join me at the report launch on 12 September 2017 at 11:30 in the Circular Economy Connect Theatre (in Hall 4). SUEZ’s CEO (and my new boss) David Palmer-Jones, and Technical Development Director, Stuart Hayward-Higham, will present the report’s findings, with commentary from Chris Holmes, Head of Waste and Bioenergy for Green Investment Bank. This is a must attend event, with copies of the report available afterwards, so come and join the debate and share your insights.

As I said Suez do take the event very seriously and put a lot of time and effort into it, and this year, like last year, SUEZ is sponsoring the Circular Economy Connect Hub (Hall 4). This is a casual meeting space with refreshments available throughout the show if you are with a Suez team member, so plan your meetings now and make sure to find a comfy seat, with a warm coffee and an equally warm reception from the Suez team.

Finally, I will be part of the Circular Economy Hackathon which aims to showcase innovative ideas that use mobile technology, smart data and the ‘Internet of Things’ to deliver solutions for improving circularity. London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB) has teamed up with RWM and SUEZ to host this challenge, which was open to entrepreneurs with an emerging concept, as well as start-ups and small businesses who are developing their technology.

The deadline for submissions was 23 August and I have been busying reviewing entries. The finalists will be presenting in the Circular Economy Connect Theatre at 16:20 on 13 September, in the hope of winning the £7,000 investment. So if this sounds like your idea of a good time, or you think you might learn a thing or two, then book the time in your diary and make sure your train journey does depart until 5.30pm.

RWM is such a great opportunity to re-connect, investigate, learn and develop that I try and cram to much in and always need a holiday soon after. This year will be no different, other than I don’t have a holiday planned.

I will also be chairing & presenting on ‘local authority innovative partnerships’ on the Thursday afternoon, attending the CIWM AGM is on the Wednesday lunchtime, running a couple of doctor’s surgeries advising on careers and development opportunities for CIWM new members and ISWA young members . If you're interested, email me direct or register with the CIWM help desk on site. So, as you can see I intend to make the most of the opportunities, and will be joining SLR at the Gala Dinner to make sure I maximise my networking efforts.

Making the effort

So if you are planning on being at the NEC then come find me, text me, or email me beforehand. And if you aren’t, then why not?

Putting in the hard yards and going the extra mile is what this sector is all about. We can play hard and work hard as well as anyone, perhaps better than most given the sense of irony and the backs against the wall mentality that this sector so often has to show, and I fully intend to do both in the coming weeks and months, whenever the opportunity arises, and I hope you do to.

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Feeling totally up-lifted now Adam. I suggest a waste and recycling olympic games

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