Most UK recyclers, regardless of sector, would readily admit that 2015 was a little challenging.
The continuing decline in commodity prices, on virtually all recyclate, has generated an ongoing headwind. Add to this WM3 – the Environment Agency’s latest guidance on the labelling, storage, packaging and transport of waste – which has created a great deal of additional bureaucracy and system changes. Further add in the market gyrations in the producer packaging sector and the ongoing standoff within the WEEE Schemes, it is understandable we feel we have been deflected from what we are here to do.
One has to be sanguine about these things. At the end of this week, it will be 36 years since the company first traded. We made a collection of photographic fixer from Wymondham Photographic to recover the Silver. It was at the depth of a recession and, I remember, it was when we had proper winters. Since then we have worked through three other economic recessions and a number of commodity price slumps.
Despite this experience, we are no better at predicting where the bottom will eventually come or how long it will take, it is not stating the obvious; we must be a lot nearer the bottom today than we were three years ago. In other words, what we have learnt markets always rise higher as well as lower than they should but eventually will head in the other direction.
As recyclers, as I am I sure in most industries, we look for certainty, where we can find it. Certainty can only really be achieved when you have control of the levers. When companies the size of Glencore or Billington could not foresee the market movements this last year, I don’t think we should be too harsh with ourselves. Simply, we all need to make our businesses “commodity price proof”, or as close as we can.
In one sense this commodity price slump has helped further shift the emphasis to reuse and recycling over recovery. Taxation will make sure disposal does not take a comeback. We are already used to the moving sands of the technological advance and as long as we keep our focus on the needs of our customers, the future looks bright.
May I wish you a Peaceful and Prosperous New Year.
Chairman of the WasteCare Group