Webinar highlights: Hopes and aspirations for 2023

Blog By Siobhan O’Dell, Community Liaison Manager at SUEZ recycling and recovery UK

2022 was a year of suspense as we waited for clarification from government on the upcoming changes to policy needed for local authorities and the waste industry to begin making pragmatic plans to deliver a greener economy. Yesterday’s webinar, hosted by Sarah Ottaway, Sustainability and Social Value Lead at SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, aimed to move forward from this period of uncertainty and start the new year with a positive outlook for the future. What were our panellists hopes and aspirations for our sector in 2023?

To start the webinar, Sarah asked the audience:

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Almost two thirds of the audience were unsure about the development of policy in 2023 and whether there would be enough clarification to support the UK’s transition to net zero. However, all our panellists came from a ‘glass half full’ perspective, saying that they were optimistic for the year ahead. Dr Adam Read remarked “we can’t have another year with as much uncertainty as last!”

Our panellists hopes and aspirations for 2023

Tracy Sutton, Founder and Lead Consultant, ROOT

Tracy works with global brands to advise on packaging solutions. With her clients, Tracy is currently navigating the potential implications of DRS and CE policies from different global markets. For 2023, Tracy hopes for better collaboration and waste policy alignment between the different nations and markets. If the nations can align, she aspires for 2023 to be the year where each end of the value chain can work with connected thinking to create meaningful change.

Vicki Burrell, Waste Strategy Team Manager for Durham County Council and Vice Chair of LARAC

Speaking on behalf of LARAC (Local authority recycling advisory committee), Vicki shared her hopes for 2023. Above all, she was looking for clarity and consistency from government regarding strategy, funding, and national communications.

Dr Adam Read, Chief External Affairs and Sustainability Officer, SUEZ Recycling and recovery UK

With the hope of clarity of strategy throughout 2023, Adam’s biggest aspiration was for this to be “the year of the green skills”. To be able to achieve the government’s net zero targets he believes we need to start moving forward with training so that we have a workforce who are ready and skilled in the upcoming jobs.

Dr Anna Willetts, Partner at gunnercooke and President of CIWM

Like all the panellists, Anna had a positive outlook on 2023. Referencing her CIWM presidential report, Improving the way we regulate circular resources in the UK, Anna’s biggest hope for the year centred around changing the word ‘waste’. Anna suggested that the word waste can conjure up images of products at the end of their life that need to be thrown away. Instead, she wants ‘waste’ to be more commonly referred to and defined as a ‘resource’ – something that has value and can be repaired, reused, or recycled.

After all the panellists shared their aspiration for the year, Sarah then asked the audience for their views on the theme that will see the most progress in 2023.

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Forty-one per cent of the audience voted that kerbside recycling would see the most progress in 2023. Adam explained that with upcoming policy changes, like EPR, DRS and consistent collections, this will inevitably be an area where we see big developments across the year.

The panellist’s discussion continued focusing on the need for joined up thinking when looking at the bigger picture of waste. Tracy urged for the audience and politicians to think more about waste prevention rather than thinking about the waste products we are left with after consumption and pushing the issue higher up the waste hierarchy. Anna echoed this point, giving the audience real life examples of how this could be achieved. However, Tracy continued by prompting a discussion into whose responsibility it is to champion waste prevention and what voices are needed to lead this change? After passionate contributions from all the panellists, it was agreed that the waste sector has a large role in showcasing solutions for the green transition to government.

Finally, Sarah asked the audience for their thoughts:

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It was clear from both the audience and the panellists that clarity is the missing piece needed to be able to hit the government’s net zero targets. Clarity is needed on upcoming policies so that government and stakeholders can collaborate to create pragmatic targets and drive change.

To find out exactly what the panellists said around the theme of ‘clarity’ in more detail, or if you would like to watch the webinar session in full, click here.