Our world and its resources are precious

Ray Georgeson Resources

I have spent most of my adult life working to improve the environment.  I joined Friends of the Earth in 1980 and very quickly became involved as a volunteer, managing waste paper collections for my local group in the days before ‘kerbside recycling’ was invented and much of what household recycling existed was organised by the materials reprocessors and the voluntary sector.  At night and at weekends I was a busy green activist, whilst earning my crust in the textile industry until opting for a late higher education in the late 1980s.

I was one of the first members of Waste Watch and a supporter of their launch during National Recycling Week 1987.  After completing my higher education in 1989 I lectured part-time in Geography and Resource Management until securing a post developing a new social enterprise in recycling in the North West, based in Widnes, Cheshire. I went on to work in community group development roles for Waste Watch and the Community Recycling Network, working with many social enterprises across the UK, providing training and business support.

In 1996 I became Chief Executive of Waste Watch which I ran for four and a half years. During that time, Waste Watch expanded its research, advocacy and educational work in the period when the new Government was establishing itself and developing new strategies for waste management.

During 2000, I was seconded fromout of Waste Watch to support DETR (now Defra) on the development of Waste Strategy 2000 and the new delivery organisation that became the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).  Influenced by the work of the Clean Washington Center in Seattle and its founder David Dougherty, I became an advocate of recycling market development and played a part in implementing the concept in the UK.

I joined the new Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) as its Director of Policy in January 2001, and helped to create and expand the organisation as it began the task of helping the UK accelerate its recycling performance by developing new markets for materials.

When the Cabinet Office decided to review England’s waste policy in 2002/3, I joined the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit in the Cabinet Office (on secondment from WRAP) to help with the review.  The resultant Waste not: want not report recommended a series of changes and new initiatives to secure the achievement of challenging targets for diverting waste from landfill which we are required to meet by the EU Landfill Directive.

WRAP extended its work to include major programmes on public communication on recycling, local authority support, and waste minimisation, all of which I helped to develop and implement.  As WRAP’s Director of Policy and Evaluation, I lead the production of all four of WRAP’s Business Plans covering the period 2001-2011 and managed the team that evaluate the effectiveness of the programmes and published annual Achievements Reports.  I left WRAP in June 2008 after seven and a half years.

Today, I run my own business and have a portfolio of activities and interests in the resources and environment field.  I do this from my Otley home office base, set in Yorkshire’s delightful Wharfedale.

Weaved in throughout this chronology is an involvement in many organisations and initiatives over the years in the recycling and environment field.  I was the first Chair of London Remade which delivers recycling support and market development and the first Chair of CREATE, a social enterprise based in Liverpool providing training and job opportunities through the re-use and refurbishment of white goods.  I have previously served on the boards of the Environment Council, the Community Recycling Network, and London Waste Action.  In the first year of the Government’s Beacon Councils initiative, I served on the Beacon Councils Advisory Panel as a waste management specialist.

I hold a BA (Hons) First Class in Urban Policy from the University of Lancaster, and have completed further study in recent years at Cranfield University School of Management and the College of Europe in Bruges.

I am a Chartered Waste Manager (MCIWM) and a Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (FRSA).  In the Millennium Year Honours List, I was honoured to be awarded the MBE for services to sustainable waste management.

I’ve spent half a lifetime in rubbish, and enjoyed it!  Working with such a range of people with common interests, whether they are from local councils, the third sector, industry or Government, has made it challenging and satisfying.  Today, the challenges may have changed a little but there is still much to do to improve the way we reduce our waste and recover resources.  Seizing those opportunities for improvement as we strive for a resource efficient and even potentially a ‘zero waste’ society is something for us all to do.