WOOD RECYCLERS were inspired to turn future challenges into opportunities as they gathered on June 29 to mark the 21st anniversary of the Wood Recyclers’ Association (WRA).
The milestone conference and celebration at The Belfry Hotel & Resort near Birmingham saw over 120 WRA members and guests meet to reflect on the successful history of the Association and look towards the next 21 years.
A rousing keynote address was delivered by former British rally champion Penny Mallory, who spoke about the importance of mental toughness and of turning challenges into opportunities.
Reflecting on what made her a winner – and the only woman in the world to drive a world rally car for Ford – she explained that those who are adaptable, committed, confident and focused are the most likely to succeed.
“You can do nothing about your genes”, she said. “But you can do a huge amount for your mental toughness.”
Setting the scene for the day, WRA chair Richard Coulson recounted the history of the WRA since it was founded by five wood recycling companies in a hotel in Carlisle in 2001.
“The idea of a trade association came about when recyclers recognised that the industry needed a united voice if it was going to be listened to by regulators and the government”, he recalled.
“The premise of a united voice has remained throughout the WRA’s history, leading right up to today when we’re still working hard on behalf of the sector on issues affecting our industry.”
Since then, Richard explained that the waste wood recycling sector had grown and prospered – despite having to weather some storms along the way – with 90% of waste wood now being recovered for use in valuable end markets. Today, the WRA has 112 members.
“We have come a long way in 21 years”, he said. “Thank you for your support, and here’s to the next 21 years!”.
After examining the past, the conference turned to the future with three sessions looking at what might be in store.
Dan Cooke, Junior Vice President at CIWM, outlined his vision of the waste industry of the future and its potential to contribute to the net zero agenda.
After lunch, Georgina Collins, Director of Regulated Industry at the Environment Agency, discussed the future regulatory landscape in a video address. She pointed to electronic waste tracking and reform of the waste carrier, broker, dealer registration system in England as examples of regulatory changes on the horizon for the waste sector.
The Environment Agency’s Steve Molyneux then participated in a lively panel debate on the future for the WRA and wood recycling sector.
Chaired by Steve Eminton, editor of letsrecycle.com, the session featured WRA members representing different parts of the waste wood sector supply chain. This included WRA board members Richard Jenkins from Esken Renewables and Alan Webb alongside Lee Marshall from CIWM, Lauma Kasuza from Suez and Elizabeth Green from Community Wood Recycling.
Topics discussed included fluctuating seasonal demand for wood and how to strike a balance between sending waste wood for reuse, recycling or energy production via biomass.
The end of the conference returned to the theme of mental toughness with an inspiring talk from Pete Watts of WRA member Veolia about his experience of facing adversity after developing a spinal injury. Pete is now raising money for the Spinal Injuries Association, to which the WRA made a donation.
After the conference, delegates were invited to a special celebratory drinks reception and BBQ with mini golf, during which the Association thanked departing PR and communications lead Gayle Whittaker for her hard work over the last seven years and WRA members for their ongoing support.
Main photo: Penny Mallory addressing the audience at the WRA 21st conference