The University of Northampton’s Margaret Bates, Professor of Sustainable Wastes Management, was yesterday inaugurated as 2016-17 President of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management.
Professor Bates used her inauguration – in front of over 150 guests in Terrace Pavilion of the House of Commons – to praise the industry and emphasise its impact on our everyday lives.
“The waste and resource sector is an amazing sector to be part of; it is both friendly and supportive, and innovative and cutting edge,” said Professor Bates in her acceptance speech. “We persuade a large number of people every day to think about their waste, rinse it and put it out separately for recycling even though there is no direct benefit to them at all – can you think of another area that could make similar claims?”
However, in outlining the themes for her presidential year, she highlighted the fact that there is much more to be done on waste prevention and reuse.
“Although the ways in which we treat and recycle waste are constantly improving, I am concerned that we focus too much on these aspects of the Waste Hierarchy without sufficient consideration of the options at the top, which will, I believe, be essential to delivering on a circular economy – whatever our UK version of a circular economy may be.”
Making the case for a renewed focus on reuse, Professor Bates took the opportunity to launch the CIWM’s latest report. Entitled “‘Reuse in the UK – a ‘State of the Nations Report’”, the report provides a detailed snapshot of the current landscape and the different motivations and types of relationships that drive reuse. Margaret emphasised the good work being done, which is captured in the report’s case studies, as well as the challenges.
“For me and the other members of the project steering group, it was very important that this report was a positive piece of work, celebrating the successes of the reuse sector and drawing on all the great experiences and practices out there,” she explained. “We wanted a State of the Nation Report that acknowledged not only the challenges and issues, but really focused on the ways these had been overcome. A report that doesn’t just leave the reader thinking why you should reuse, but is more about why on earth would you not reuse?”
Staying on the topic of changing behaviour, she also outlined CIWM’s current piece of research into technology’s impact on consumption patterns and the role of the supply chain, which is being carried out by John Twitchen at ENV23 for her forthcoming Presidential Report. Thanking members of the retail sector and design community for their input, she welcomed the “real desire for innovation” in the marketplace and called on brands, retailers and local government to work together to help change wasteful consumption patterns in the future.
In terms of being able to respond to these and other challenges, Margaret said that the UK waste and resources industry needs “robust, fit for purpose policy and legislation, a culture of innovation that is supported and can respond to change, effective responsibility for resources through the whole value chain…, and a sector which today’s tech-savvy young people want to be a part of, with qualifications, skills and careers structures to support them.”
Margaret wore a very special dress for the occasion, one which belonged to her late mother – the gown was altered by Lesley Lewis and colleagues in Fashion to fit Margaret perfectly. She explained: “The dress was made for Mum as a bridesmaid for her cousin’s wedding, about 60 years ago – how is that for reuse? It was the icing on the cake. I think everyone in the room, and several in the street, commented on it – and without Fashion’s help it wouldn’t have happened. Also, I was really lucky to have colleagues and friends from across the University to be there with me. I was very proud of them and chuffed by the support I received from across the University.”
With Margaret taking over from Professor Jim Baird, the 2016/17 CIWM Presidential team comprises President: Professor Margaret Bates; Senior Vice President: Professor David Wilson MBE; and incoming Junior Vice President: Enda Kiernan.
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