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News Analysis: Labour's election manifesto

It can't be easy having been in government for eight years and then fighting an election based on that record with the opposition highlighting the weak points of your policies.

But the Labour party believes it can be proud of its record on recycling.

Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett told MRW: "With recycling at record levels, we can be pleased at progress made in sustainable waste management - and in particular that in the last couple of years, waste growth has been decoupled from economic growth.

"Many of the innovative measures Labour has put in place, such as the landfill allowance trading scheme and the legislation to extend kerbside collection, are only now coming on stream. We will continue our drive toward sustainable waste management."

In particular, Labour believes that its success in breaking the link between economic growth leading to more waste is something to trumpet.

The party argues that it should receive praise from the waste and recycling industry for setting the first ever statutory targets for recycling and for doubling the rate of recycling from 7.5% in 1997 to almost 18% now.

Labour plans to continue with policies that it has already heralded. So it plans to continue to work towards the 2010 target of 30% recycling. It will do this through measures already well-established such as the Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme, initiatives to boost recycling at supermarkets, a £5 million fund for local authorities to carry out pilot programmes to offer incentives to boost household recycling and waste reduction.

There is also a commitment to provide a doorstep recycling service for all households of at least two materials by 2010.

But it is also looking at using market incentives to encourage more sustainable waste disposal methods.

So for example, Labour highlights how it increased the landfill tax to £18 per tonne from 1 April this year, and how it will increase it by £3 per tonne until it reaches £35.

These taxes are then returned to business through a new £284 million programme to cut waste.

Labour stresses that British manufacturing could save £2-3 billion each year (equivalent to 7% profits) if it were to adopt best practice waste minimisation techniques.

The party also want credit for setting up both the Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme and the Waste and Resources Action Programme to stimulate markets for recyclates.

But one area of controversy for the Labour party if it gets re-elected will be over incineration and energy from waste. Its official policy is that incineration will continue to be part of its waste strategy as long as it does not crowd out recycling schemes.

Therefore, Labour will allow small-scale incineration plants, although with the proviso that it will be up to local authorities to decide how best to manage their waste.

A recent report from the Institute of Civil Engineers found that energy from waste could provide 17% of the UK's energy needs in 2020. And this approach is backed by both the Chartered Institute of Wastes Management and the Environmental Services Association (ESA) as part of an integrated waste management strategy.

ESA chief executive Dirk Hazell said: "The UK is recycling more than ever before, but we have overlooked the potential of extracting more energy from waste.

"Although most of the UK's renewable energy is already derived from waste, it accounts for just over 1% of energy use overall.

"Many other Eu

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