Sustainable waste management provides benefits to society. However, while most people would accept and even applaud the good that sustainable waste management facilities produce, few would wish to live next door to one.
We conduct our activities under permits to operate. All of these are subject to public consultation and scrutiny. If we do not engage with the community we may find gaining new, or modifying existing permits increasingly difficult. Without these permits we cannot operate. The communities neighbouring our sites are key stakeholders. Complaints and enforcement actions taken by regulators relating to nuisance are critical performance measures for us.
Our approach to community relations is not simply reactive. We believe that there are benefits in proactive engagement with local residents. New and sustainable waste management technologies represent a change from the status-quo and may be viewed with caution. Proactive engagement to explain the sustainable benefits of new techniques and methods can address such concerns.
We believe our activities support society's move to a more sustainable future, but we cannot assume that local communities will always agree with us. Proactive engagement provides an insight into the views and concerns of communities near to our sites and allows us to change our activities to minimise any impact in advance. For example, our new Wakefield venture already have a liaison group in place including members of the local community, even before we have started any construction work on a new facility for the area.
Complaints received from local residents about our sites fell by 32% in 2011/12. Beyond the bare statistics another indicator is how specific issues are approached, as illustrated by this case study on odour problems at our Roeselare facility. Ultimately, the performance measure which may have the greatest impact is fine and prosecutions by regulators stemming from nuisance and similar issues. We have received no such enforcement action in the past year.