The Liberal Democrats has published its environmental paper Our natural heritage: Policies on the natural environment (31 July), which includes proposals to set up an independent committee to recommend binding targets for reducing waste consumption.
It hopes to pass an Anti-Waste Resource Efficiency Act to establish an independent Resource Efficiency Committee.
Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Tim Farron said: At the moment our consumption of the planets resources is clearly unsustainable. If current trends continue, we will, in less than 50 years, run out of some metals that are essential to many products, including nickel, tin, tungsten and zinc. A total of 90 per cent of raw materials end up as waste within six months of being acquired for human use.
Liberal Democrats will create an independent REC to advise and make recommendations to Government in a way similar to the expert Committee on Climate Change [advisory committee].
The REC will have the power to recommend, among other things, information campaigns, recycling targets, loans to small businesses to make resource efficiency investments or VAT reductions that facilitate resource efficiency.
The paper states that the Liberal Democrats will replace numerous existing government-funded agencies with a Resource Efficiency Trust to support business efficiencies. The party proposes that the RET will bring together agencies such as the Waste & Resources Action Programme and Envirowise to work with businesses of all sizes to help them both reduce costs and make a step change to resource efficiency.
The Liberal Democrats also propose to encourage neighbouring authorities to co-operate together, through the formation of Joint Waste Authorities, already common in many urban areas, as it claims that council boundaries rarely define a sensible catchment area for waste treatment.
Farron said: The Liberal Democrats overall aim is to remove market barriers to resource efficiency, to reduce the economic risk posed by the increasing scarcity of some key resources and to prevent the UK exporting its waste and resource problems to the developing world.
An example of the type of resource that would be looked at is bauxite. This is often mined to produce aluminium at great cost to the natural environment, despite the fact that aluminium is easily recycled.
While it is right that everyone makes an individual effort to cut down the amount they throw away, the UK needs a proper strategy to make sure waste is seriously reduced.
The Liberal Democrats also propose to ban waste treatment contracts longer than 10 years in recognition of the rapid improvements being made, ensuring that the most effective environmental technologies are introduced as soon as is sensible.