Speculation is rife within the House Clearance industry following the head of the Environment Recyclers Association speech at the Bureau of International Recycling Convention in Brussels last week. John Rose addressed the audience a significant proportion of which was composed of British House Clearance companies. He is reported to have mentioned the importance of the ‘proximity principle’. The classic example Mr Rose used is a House Clearance company in London sending lorry loads of used furniture to Scotland, while a House Clearance company in Scotland transports lorry loads of used furniture down to London – indeed the trucks might pass each other on the M1.
Environmentalists would argue that this is a waste of resources: the used furniture cleared in Scotland should be sold there, and the same should apply in London. This is all very purist and indeed you could describe it as ‘fundamentalist’ environmentalism.
It is almost completely opposite to the economic principles of the free market, which you would might think a Tory administration would support. If the proximity principle is applied to the House Clearance industry, then the problems caused by the Basel Convention would seem small in comparison. Mr Rose was careful not to say he supported such ideas, but the fact that he raised them at a meeting of house clearers is very suggestive. Another recycling ‘hot potato’ he mentioned was the ‘feudal’ system of furniture collection in place at some levels of the market.
Most people there assume he was referring to itinerants. Almost everybody would agree that it is difficult to monitor and control itinerants’ activities, and particularly difficult to enforce the current strict environmental regulations on furniture recycling. Mr Rose did not suggest an alternative to the role of itinerant collectors in the industry, but he is reported to have referred to some form of self-regulation, which could mean the new environmental standards scheme ISO 14000. One positive point he made was that he acknowledged the impact of increased bureaucracy and costs to the recycling industry. One thing is for sure, as Alan Fairless from the Secondhand Recyclers Association commented, John Roses’s speech was extremely broad reaching.