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The Olympic Legacy

24th September 2012 Posted by

Like the rest of Britain I have been basking in the collective glory of, undoubtedly, the most successful Olympic Games ever. Despite intense scrutiny, Britain delivered a complex infrastructure project on time and on budget and in doing so became the envy of the world.

From the very outset, the project was given top priority, backed first by Tony Blair and subsequently by David Cameron and Boris Johnson. Over a 10-year period they created a clear vision and plan of what they wanted to create, and then ensured that both the public and private sectors worked together to deliver it. This was Britain at its best.

However, in stark contrast to the Olympics and only 15 miles away in Bexley, stands a modern energy-from-waste facility generating enough electricity to power 100,000 homes, which has had a very different development story.  It took 15 years and three public enquiries before planning permission was finally granted. How can this country have two such contrasting approaches to the development of infrastructure, so close together?

For some years now, the recycling and waste management industry has been communicating the potential benefits if the UK moves towards a more resource-efficient and circular economy. To make this transformation, the sector has identified the need to invest up to £20 billion of its own money into new recycling and waste management facilities. This would generate up to 80 000 direct and indirect jobs, extract millions of tonnes of recyclable materials to substitute virgin commodities and produce enough energy to meet 40 per cent of the Government’s renewable energy target.

So what’s holding us back from achieving this fantastic opportunity? Well, sadly, our industry doesn’t have someone like Lord Coe to champion our cause and speed up infrastructure delivery.

The recycling and waste management industry offers the very green growth that the Government wants and, even better, it’s stimulated by private money. Therefore, I am hoping that within Government there is a champion who will work with the industry to deliver the infrastructure the UK needs, so we can put our waste materials to good use.

I’m all for an Olympic legacy where our children become healthier by exercising more, but why not also create an environmental legacy by creating a world class waste treatment infrastructure to deliver the circular economy and a sustainable future for those children to live in?

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