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Labour's waste review considers its ambitions

Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh and shadow waste minister Gavin Shuker have launched their party’s waste policy review at the Vitsoe furniture factory in Camden, London.

The review sets out the areas of waste and recycling that Labour will consider featuring in its policy proposals for the 2015 election.

In the document, drafted by Shuker and seen by MRW before its official launch, Labour stated that a focus on resource efficiency and the opportunities for economic growth that this presents “is not the green economy, but the economy of the future”.

Speaking to MRW in advance of the launch, Shuker said: “When our waste review comes out, what you’ll see is unashamedly an economic argument - in the short term how we get jobs and growth, but in the long term as well.

“Because if we do not have a more circular economy, we are losing the resources that allow us to create wealth in the long-term.”

Labour proposes to explore ideas around designing-out waste, the role of the Government in leading procurement standards and how best to co-ordinate Government policy on waste.

In the review document, Labour said: “We will explore and consider views on how ambitious we should be in reducing household waste sent to landfill, including whether the next Labour Government should align England’s recycling targets with those of Scotland and Wales, meaning that by 2025 we must recycle 70% of household waste.”

To help achieve this, it said it would look at how to motivate the private sector to deliver higher recycling and greater reuse of materials. It also said it would explore the role of regulation and voluntary schemes to increase recycling and reuse, as well as the improvement of enforcement of waste legislation.

Labour also highlighted the issue of recyclate quality, saying that it would consider how to promote higher standards.

It also stated it would look at “how to promote the skills required to create an advanced resource economy, including for the 50% of our young people who do not go to university”, as well as opportunities for job creation in the sector.

All of this fits into previous indications of what the policy review may contain. MRW reported many of these measures last September.

But despite mention of the role of regulation, any detail on Labour’s views on the landfill bans of specific materials was conspicuously absent. Creagh had previously mooted the idea of a food waste to landfill ban.

The review will be featured on for submissions to shape policy.

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) welcomed the policy document, saying Labour had grasped the opportunity for the waste and resources industry to be an engine of green growth.

ESA Chairman David Palmer-Jones said: “The challenge now will be to develop detailed proposals that provide a sound framework for businesses to invest in building a circular economy.

“The document identifies some key issues here including the need for a sense of ambition and the urgent need to make Whitehall policy in this area more joined up than it currently is.”

A tour around Vitsoe

Labour chose to launch their resource management review at furniture manufacturer Vitsoe’s factory. The British company is predominantly known for its modular shelving systems.

Vitsoe has a philosophy of sustainable manufacturing. Managing director Mark Adams said that the company was seeking to “create that mindset where people want to look after it, treasure it, and repair it.”

The company has been redesigning its packaging for ease of reuse and to reduce waste. Adams said that knowing the longevity of their products allows long-term thinking on packaging design, and initial investments in this can pay off after six months.

Vitsoe currently reuses around 30% of its packaging, which is removed by intallers from the company or dropped into the factory in London by customers. But the big challenge to reuse is the globalisation of the business, which now exports 60% of its products, compared to 21% when the recession first hit.

The company helped to found the Centre of Innovative Manufacturing in Industrial Sustainability at the University of Cambridge and Imperial Colledge London. Adams said Vitsoe had applied for funding from the Technology Strategy Board to pay for research into improving its packaging reuse in the global model.

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