Luke Blair: PR challenge for waste is immense

No matter how hard you try to sell something, sometimes it just won't shift. This came to mind as I packed up a jumble sale stall last weekend.

Luke Blair: waste management
Luke Blair: waste management

We were left with two large binliners full of children’s clothes and toys, still unsold.  Yet more household waste which, essentially, we didn’t know what to do with – a tiny fraction of a much greater problem facing the public sector.

We produce enough household rubbish in the UK to fill the Albert Hall every two hours and, in London, enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool every hour.  These amounts could increase seven-fold over the next decade.

And it is local authorities who have the job of finding places to put it all, clubbing together to try and deal with it strategically via sub-regional waste plans. 

These aim to identify new, more environmentally-friendly techniques and locations for managing waste – and it is quite a challenge. 

Incinerators are seen as having a dirty name (not really borne out by the facts) and even sites which have been there for years are viewed suspiciously, as though people should somehow only deal with their own waste in their own borough.

Newer, greener technologies such as anaerobic digestion and gasification are more efficient and, at the moment, more politically acceptable, but they still need somewhere to be located and money to be built.

Not surprisingly, Boris Johnson’s just published three Mayoral strategies have more environmental ingredients in them than anything else.  In London, green issues will be a major factor in next year’s elections.

Sub regional waste plans – and the way they are communicated – will form a key part of this battleground, in London and nationally. 

The PR challenge of presenting an acceptable waste management plan and then being able to implement it, over a timescale which stretches way into the future, is immense.

Still, at least the National Trust is doing its bit to raise awareness.  Last week it pointed out that we should pee on our compost heaps to speed up the process.  Just a shame it doesn’t work for jumble sale leftovers.

Luke Blair is a director at the London Communications Agency

 

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