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With ORA’s 8th October AGM fast approaching, now should be the time to focus on the key legislative and policy issues that are most likely to impact on the waste sector during the next 12 months. Whilst this always involves a fair degree of crystal ball gazing, this year, a crystal ball, a palm reading and a fortune telling would not be enough to determine what the next 12 months or 2 years has in store.

The Government may be making all of the right noises about the new Environment Bill and the new Circular Economy legislation, but in reality, the real driving force next year is likely to be policies and legislation to deal with the Covid crisis and Brexit. It would be nice to think that the Circular Economy legislation will drive investment in lots of waste recovery & recycling initiatives that harmonise with End of Waste policies and reduce the impact of consumerism. But what if this would impact on jobs, profits, employment taxes, corporation taxes and unemployment benefits in the traditional manufacturing industries and service sectors that are already in the process of transitioning to a pseudo command economy?

This becomes a trade-off between saving jobs, growth and tax income now versus new jobs in the future.

If you were in Government, and with no experience in the waste sector, where would you prioritise your efforts? The rail sector is a very good example of how a service sector has been badly affected by Covid and is now operating in a Command economy1. The drastic reduction in passenger numbers would have already forced many of the train operating companies into liquidation. Government intervention with financial lifelines has unintentionally killed off the franchise model. Without sufficient passenger numbers, their problems are much greater than those facing the hospitality sector. Their usual economic numbers are in the bin and they are only operating because Government is driving the trains and commanding that they continue to operate. This is very similar to what happened at some stage after WWII, when a string of British companies operated under state control – British Railways (1948-97), British Coal (1946-97), British Gas (1948-97), British Steel (1967-88), British Airways (BOAC/BEA: 1953-87), British Leyland (1975-94), British Telecom (1969-84) etc.