A radical new approach to waste

A photograph of bin bags
Bin bags

Newcastle announced today (Wed, March 1) it has set up a team of top experts to take a radical new look at how the city deals with its mountain of waste in a ground breaking new initiative.

The Newcastle Waste Commission comprises some of the waste industry’s finest brains and is expected to help put the city on the international map.

It’s believed to be the first time that a major city has set up a Commission to take a root and branch look at all aspects of waste, from recycling to refuse, waste to energy and packaging.

Every year Newcastle produces 142,000 tonnes of waste – enough to fill the home of Newcastle United, St James Park, entirely to the top every three years.

Many similar sized cities produce similar amounts and experts argue we can’t go on simply producing more and more waste and dumping it into landfill sites across the country. It causes environmental damage, and councils with shrinking budgets can no longer afford to pay increasing landfill taxes.

The Newcastle Waste Commission is the brainchild of Newcastle councillor Nick Kemp, who has responsibility for Newcastle City Council’s waste strategy.

Cllr Kemp, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Regulatory Services, said: “Newcastle has decided that it can’t go on producing inordinate amounts of waste and just dumping it in the ground. We want a new approach. Something that challenges each and every one of us to change our behaviour for the world today and the world tomorrow. We owe this to future generations.

“I want Newcastle to become a model of excellence in how it deals with waste; a city that is emulated all around the world in tackling this global problem.”

Heidi Mottram, Chief Executive of Northumbrian Water Group, will chair the Newcastle Waste Commission.

Ms Mottram said: “How we deal with the sheer amount of waste society produces is one of the most important environmental issues of our time. It’s critically important for all of us that we take a long hard look at waste to see what we can do to reduce it and see what potential benefits we can create. 

“At Northumbrian Water we recycle 100% of the sludge from the wastewater treatment process and turn it into energy, literally creating power from poo. We must be innovative in our approach and look for similar ways to be positive about all waste.

“I am delighted to have been asked to chair the Newcastle Waste Commission, and look forward to working with our panel of experts and listening to the views and experiences of a wide range of organisations and individuals over the coming months to see what we can do differently.”

The Commission will examine in detail the journey of waste from the moment it is produced through to the moment it is disposed of to see how the city can dramatically reduce its waste mountain.

It’s a response to the national debate about waste in the UK today.

The Commission will meet over the next six months and hear evidence from a wide range of individuals and organisations to inform its thinking, culminating in a report with a series of recommendations.

Although the recommendations will be for Newcastle, it is expected they will be applicable to other cities across the UK and even influence Government policy.

To get the views of key decision makers and business nationally, the Commission will meet twice in London and three times in Newcastle, beginning on March 17. Subsequent meetings will be on April 21 (London); May 19 (Newcastle); July 14 (London) and September 22 (Newcastle). The Commission is expected to produce its report before the end of the year.

Commission members are:

  • Heidi Mottram (Chair) Chief Executive of Northumbrian Water Group
  • Dr Colin Church, Chief Executive of Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM)
  • Ben Webster, Environment Editor, The Times
  • Marie Fallon, Director of Regulated Industry, Environment Agency
  • Peter Maddox, Director of Government Programmes for the charity, Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP)
  • Paul Taylor, UK Chief Executive of international waste recycling group, FCC Environment
  • Andrew Griffiths, Head of Environmental Sustainability, Nestle UK and Ireland

Waste Commission meetings will be conducted in a select committee-type way.

Businesses, groups and individuals will be able to apply to address the panel, giving their opinions and experiences starting from the meeting on April 21.

Each meeting will focus on a particular theme e.g waste minimisation, re-use, recycling, emerging technologies and the role of communities.

The Commission’s recommendations will be for the whole of the city to consider – not just the council.

Have your say on the Wise on Waste website

Brief biographies

A photograph of Heidi MottramHeidi Mottram (CEO) joined the Board in 2010, when she was appointed as CEO of NWL and NWGL. Prior to her current position, Ms Mottram held a number of senior management roles, including Managing Director of Northern Rail Limited, Commercial Director of Arriva Trains, and Operations Director of Midland Mainline as well as various senior positions in Great North Eastern Railway. She is a Non-executive Director of Eurostar International Limited and a Board Member of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership. She was awarded an OBE in the New Year’s Honours 2009 for services to the rail industry. In June 2016, she was named Business in the Community's Prince of Wales Ambassador to the North East. She is also a Board Member of Kielder Water and Forest Park Development Trust, as well as a member of the CBI Board.

A photograph of Colin ChurchDr Colin Church is the Chief Executive of CIWM, the professional body for resources and waste management. Previously, he was Director, Environmental Quality in the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). His responsibilities included the Government’s policies on adaptation to a changing climate, air quality, industrial pesticides, industrial pollution prevention, local environment quality, nanomaterials, noise, ozone depleting substances, pesticides, resource efficiency/waste and sustainable procurement. He was responsible for the Government’s support for waste infrastructure development, and led for DEFRA on climate change mitigation.

A photograph of Ben WebsterBen Webster is Environment Editor and Oceans Correspondent of The Times. His recent investigations have included exposing the full impact of air pollution in our cities; the cruel treatment of animals in some abattoirs; the growing plastic pollution of oceans and the loss of the green belt. He joined The Times in 1998. He worked on the Times newsdesk from 1998-2000 as night news editor and then assistant news editor. He was Transport Correspondent from 2000 to 2009, Environment Editor from 2009 to 2011, Media Editor 2011 to 2013, covering the Leveson Inquiry and Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal, returning to be Environment Editor in 2013.

A photograph of Marie FallonMarie Fallon is Director Regulated Industry for the Environment Agency. Marie qualified in Town Planning and started her professional working life as an Environmental Educational Officer in Coventry planting trees and working with schools.  Marie joined the Agency three years ago as the Area Manager for Northumberland, Durham and Tees and she has recently taking up the role of Director of Regulated Industry within the Agency. Prior to joining the agency Marie had a 28 year local government career including: Corporate Director of Environment in Cumbria, Interim Director of Regeneration, Enterprise and Planning in Northampton; Director of Regeneration in Newcastle. 

A photograph of Peter MaddoxPeter Maddox is Director of Government Programmes at WRAP, Waste & Resources Action Group. He has been at WRAP for 10 years in a range of strategy and operational roles related to waste management, resource efficiency and the circular economy. Previously he worked at BP for the polymers and chemicals businesses in UK and France. He has a D Phil in Chemistry.

A photograph of Paul TaylorPaul Taylor is responsible for FCC Environment’s entire business in the UK, creating a clear vision for the business with defined strategic goals, delivering shareholder value, leading the business through a period of rapid change in market conditions and expectation. Paul is a chartered civil engineer with 25 years of experience in the waste and recycling industry.

A photograph of Andy GriffithsAndy Griffiths is Head of Environmental Sustainability at Nestlé UK and Ireland. He is qualified as both a Chartered Engineer and a Chartered Environmentalist and is focussed on bringing together the engineering expertise, operational experience and environmental insights of the organisation alongside collaborative partnerships with academia and key delivery partners to develop and implement robust and effective sustainability programmes. In addition to leading Nestlé UK & Ireland's waste strategy Andy is a member of WRAPs Courtauld 2025 Steering Group and the co-chair of WRAPs Surplus Food Redistribution Working Group.