Malcolm Bates on the Importance of Learning International Lessons : BLOG: Waste & Recycling – An International Game which Could Learn from Football

malcolm bates waste recycling

Could the waste and recycling industry take lessons from football when it comes to learning how vital services are delivered in countries around the world? Malcome Bates makes the case…

To be honest, I’m no fan of football. Partly because I hated getting my knees covered in mud when forced to play the game as a kid at school. And partly because, as a Brit, I can’t understand why football teams from the UK are so useless. It’s supposed to be our ‘national game’, for goodness sake. Surely, we should be able to win the World Cup every time? And yet? We suffer national humiliation on a regular basis.

So does this mean I’m only interested in things that I might be good at? Yeah, pretty much. Aim high, I say. This puts me at odds with the foundations of traditional British culture – every kid of my generation was taught, “It’s not winning that’s important, it’s the taking part that counts.” Rubbish. Why aim to lose, when with a bit more effort, you can both take part and win?

My point? We need to make sure that our industry doesn’t just ‘take part’ in any new initiative when it comes to improving standards of service, vehicle utilisation, or environmental gain, when instead, we should be at the very top of our game. Waste and recycling is an essential public service, paid for – one way or another – by every local resident and business. So our industry should set an example of how it should be done. Second best is selling our communities short.

Here’s another factor that I’ve been wrestling with – but whether there is a credible connection between waste and recycling and the game of football, I’m not so sure. Oddly, there is no restriction on football management to only select players from the cities – or countries – that signify the name of the team. Like, you don’t need to have been born in Manchester or even live there to play for ‘Manchester United’. Or come from Munich to play for Bayern Munich. Likewise, the managers of many football teams don’t even have to come from the same country as the teams they manage. In other words, it’s a global business.

Waste and recycling? That’s a global business too. And yet, while the manufacturing side of our industry does have an international element (the success of ‘IFAT’ proves that), the movement of top professionals to take on challenging assignments on a global basis is still some way behind that of a game involving kicking a ball around on the off-chance of getting it to go between two white posts into a net. Don’t you find that odd?

So can we learn more from the way professionals in other towns, cities and even countries do what is essentially the same job? Absolutely. Would it help our industry develop further if, like in football, we had a greater movement of managers on an international basis? Possibly. But at the very least, it might be worth taking every opportunity to travel to see how the job is done elsewhere.

f you get the chance, take it.

Malcolm Bates, Chief Editor

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