BLOG: Talking rubbish… again

Guernsey's States building

The next three days in the States Assembly will likely see 12 women and 28 men talking rubbish…

Miserably predictable puns aside, Guernsey’s Integrated Waste Strategy is back in front of the States today.

With the overall cost sitting at just around an eye watering £300m, Guernsey’s Integrated Waste Strategy has had what could be described as a chequered history, at best. First there was Lurgi, then Suez and now export with an emphasis on high recycling – with the idea of on-island food waste treatment disappearing into the ether, and recycling targets slowly moving further and further into the horizon.

The strategy looks markedly different to how it did when it was approved in 2012. So now we are getting to the thick end of it all, should the bulk of the culpability lie at the feet of the current States Assembly?

Should Deputies Barry Brehaut & Charles Parkinson alongside their boards take the majority of the flak, as they are leading the charge for this strategy at this eleventh hour? Absolutely not.

This is a strategy borne of the decisions made in the early 21st century. Namely March 2010. The situation we are in was borne of the decisions made around seven years ago - such is the glacial pace of motion when it comes to strategies with the States of Guernsey (see Disability & Inclusion Strategy for more). It makes me extremely uncomfortable that the main protagonists in this merry dance we call the waste strategy are outside of the States now, and whilst they still face criticism they are also much less affected by it.

Mont Cuet

Now, with a mountain of rubbish piling up in the Vale, Guernsey’s States are faced with Hobson’s choice. Voting for the strategy as it is, which many politicians have told me is something they don’t want to do, or finding themselves with no solution available before the Mont Cuet runs out of capacity.

With that in mind, it is incredibly unlikely Guernsey’s Government will make a U-turn at this eleventh hour and renege on this strategy. The big challenge for those championing the programme will be in defeating the amendments it faces.

From the right, there’s an attempt by Deputies Jan Kuttelwascher & Joe Mooney to, in essence, bin off kerbside recycling. From the left Deputy Peter Roffey with the aid of Deputies Jennifer Merrett, Carl Meerveld & Rob Prow, there’s a move to recycle the recycling targets straight into the rubbish compactor and even more controversially so, to look at possibly an incinerator, landfill or new technologies post-export.

I can see these amendments garnering some serious interest, as the Economic Development bloc is likely to vote with Deputies Kuttelwascher & Mooney. But of course, with one bloc comes the push back from those backing the strategy, which means E&I alongside the STSB will probably try and block the moves.

The vote may well be tight, but I can see Deputy Roffey’s amendment for a cheeky peak at an on-island solution, post-export, sneaking through. While Deputy Kuttelwascher’s almost encyclopaedic knowledge of waste could also see his gambit win the day.

Deputy Kuttelwascher

But when it comes to integrated strategies, the devil is almost certainly in the detail. As has been seen with regards the Integrated Transport Strategy – the key word there is INTEGRATED - remove one element of it and you’ll be thrown into a game of Giant Jenga with a whack load of States time and cash.

Is that the best way to make policy? The best way to ensure projects are value for money? That should be high in the mind of those considering this strategy.

Today though, it’s likely we’ll see a lot of ideology vs. common sense rhetoric, a hefty dose of ‘I’m representing the average Guernseyperson - The Mr and Mrs Le Page in the Vale’, with the odd bit of ‘Enough is Enough’ thrown in.

By the end of the week though, I predict P&R’s delegated authority towards the strategy will be extended, and we’ll be one step closer to putting the nail in the coffin of Guernsey’s great waste debate.