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Comment: Don't let recycling lose out

Now that the election is finally over we can get back to the work in hand. Both Margaret Beckett and Elliot Morley have retained their jobs as Secretary of State and Minister of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). But this information was of little importance to the media outlets over the weekend that concentrated on the more prominent portfolios.

Environmental issues got little airtime during an election campaign that had little real debate or excitement. Most of us switched off by the last few weeks were keen for the advent of May 6 so work and life could resume as normal.

The impact of the environment on the everyday political agenda continues below the radar in many respects, and this situation looks to remain as minor shuffles take place at Defra and within the Conservative Party.

Defra has had a number of its senior ministers cut, despite the expectation of a busy period ahead. In the Tories camp its shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Oliver Letwin is said to have taken the less challenging environment portfolio so he can return to a job at merchant bank NM Rothschild. I'm sure his constituents will be pleased to find they come third on his list of priorities.

The Liberal Democrats have done little to change its shadow minister portfolios but is going through a process reviewing all its policies.

Recycling and waste issues will be competing against a number of environmental ones over the forthcoming months. The debate on climate change keeps gaining some exposure, particularly as famous environmentalists have joined the debate, sparking some controversy. Reforms of the sugar trade are also expected to take up much of the Secretary of State's time.

As the UK takes over the presidency of the G8 and the European Union it is essential that waste is not forgotten at the expense of all these other issues. Recycling targets need to be met and important pieces of legislation implemented and compliance strategies put in place. What impact will there be on the Waste Electrical Electronic Equipment Directive with the newly named Department of Trade and Industry that is now known as the Department for Productivity, Energy and Industry?

As stories in this week's feature section demonstrate there are still mixed fortunes to be had in the recycling industry. Some metals recyclers have decided to quit the business feeling that the impact of huge investments is simply not worth it. Others who have made the commitment are increasingly frustrated with cowboy operators who continue to undermine their business by breaking the law.

What many want is a level playing field and a recognition of the contribution made in wider political circles.

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