The communities department has been accused by a former Conservative environment secretary of ignoring common sense over weekly household collections and also of failing to grasp wider responsibilities in tackling climate change.
Lord Deben, who as John Gummer headed the environment department for four years under John Major, told MRW the coalition Government had behaved “quite wrongly” in trying to force weekly collections.
“The determination of Mr [Eric] Pickles to return to a weekly general collection has not been successful – and people said it wasn’t sensible,” he said.
“We should instead be encouraging them to reduce their general waste. What you should have is a fortnightly collection of general waste and a more regular one of organics waste of all kinds.”
He also criticised weight being used as the index for recycling targets, saying it meant an over-emphasis on the collection of garden waste.
Deben said there had not been enough joined-up thinking across Whitehall on resources, and he backed recent calls for a cross-departmental Office for Resource Management.
“I like it a lot because I think you need to concentrate on resources. But this has not been a priority for DCLG. It has not seen that it has a place in all these issues: food waste, climate change etc.
“DCLG has not understood this is a central issue. Local authorities do see it, but their own ministry has not taken it seriously enough.”
Deben argues that the department has not been typical of Government as a whole because he maintains it has had a good record across a range of environment issues.
Turning to efforts in Brussels to relaunch the circular economy package, Deben said he supported appropriate regulation but “we have to make sure that regulation works and in a cost-effective way”.
He believes regulation is “crucial” for a free market.
“If you don’t regulate, the market always moves to monopoly because if businesses have a chance of cornering a monopoly, that is what they do. So you have to regulate.
“At both ends of the spectrum you have zealots: zealots for not having regulation and zealots for having regulation for everything. You have to find a middle way.”
- This was the second part of a conversation with MRW earlier in the month. The first included a call for a ban on food waste to landfill.