The introduction of clear targets on MRF contamination levels would boost UK jobs and growth, shadow waste minister Gavin Shuker has told MRW.
The MP for Luton South’s comments come as the sector awaits publication of the MRF Code of Practice, which could be used to tackle the contamination level issue.
Speaking exclusively to MRW at the RWM exhibition, Shuker said the issue was both economically and environmentally important.
“Right now it is, in many cases, more profitable to export poorly sorted recyclate overseas when we could retain high-quality feedstocks here,” he said.
The Government should enforce existing regulations to monitor and measure MRF outputs, Shuker added, calling for transparency.
“How do you get a clear, understandable standard, something that’s tradable?
If you want a product that has very low levels of contamination in it, that is clearly worth more. As long as that is clear to people, it’s fine.”
He rejected protectionist policies to secure material for UK reprocessors. It should make economic sense to reprocess locally, he said, but a Labour Government would not “put up a wall around the country”. Instead, it would use existing enforcement powers to ensure quality.
On the collections debate, Shuker said it was unrealistic to force councils locked into long-term contracts to switch to a kerbside sort, but “economic incentives” could shift councils away from commingling.
“If UK manufacturers are crying out for high-quality material and are paying at the levels that make it viable, local authorities will start collecting to ensure compliance in terms of quality and contamination.”
In a keynote speech at the in Birmingham NEC, Shuker outlined a series of waste and resource policies that Labour would explore, including:
- Aligning England’s recycling target with those of Wales and Scotland by creating one economic area with the same targets.
- Creating a Government-wide office of resource efficiency to coordinate and “focus minds on resources” across Whitehall.
- A focus on creating UK jobs and UK growth through and in the waste and resources sector
- An advanced industrial strategy that harnesses the power of Government and the private sector together
- Using Government procurement standards to design out waste
- Improving the enforcement of existing legislation to ensure a level playing field for UK reprocessors
- Asking how recycling and reprocessing can be made more ethical and more local.