Waste minister Lord Taylor has labelled efforts to persuade councils to return to weekly bin rounds a “political imperative” and slammed some Tory MPs as “short sighted”, during an exclusive MRW interview.
The waste minister used the interview to outline his thinking on a range of issues, including the keenly anticipated materials recovery facility (MRF) code of practice and landfill bans.
He also defended Defra’s waste ambitions, which Chartered Institution of Wastes Management chief executive Steve Lee this week derided as “about interesting as half a sink full of dirty dish water”.
During his first substantial interview since taking up the role last September, Taylor revealed:
- He sees encouraging councils to return to weekly waste collection rounds as a “political imperative” to be achieved without reducing recycling rates.
- He says Tory MPs including Henry Bellingham and Elizabeth Truss campaigning against the King’s Lynn incinerator in Norfolk are taking a “short sighted” view and backed the council’s energy from waste vision.
- He thinks enforcing a prescribed level for contamination on materials leaving Materials Recovery Facilities (MRF) through the code of practice currently being drawn up could be considered draconian.
- He is instinctively against landfill bans on any materials but says it remains an option for wood. A consultation on restrictions on wood going to landfill will take place in July.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles’ £250m Weekly Collection Support Scheme has received a lukewarm response from councils but Lord Taylor said he was “quite happy” with DCLG’s role.
“Officials were very much engaged in this area to try and make sure we achieved what was seen as a political imperative, which was weekly collections, without reducing the amount of recycling,” he added.
Joy Blizzard, chair of the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee said the notion residents wanted to return to weekly collections had never been proven by ministers and that it also ran counter to the previously stated political imperative “to be the greenest government ever”.
Taylor also laid out his thinking on the MRF code – which is due for consultation in August.
Lord Taylor stressed nothing had been finalised on the code and that he wanted to “work with the industry” to get it right.
But after his aide said the Government would not necessarily support a prescribed level for contamination of materials leaving MRFs, which could be considered “draconian”, he added: “Nor would I - I recognise you need the industry on side to deliver a code of practice.”
Reprocessors said they were “disappointed” with the comments. The Resource Association said that if the Government went down this path, it could jeopardise investments.
Chief executive Ray Georgeson said: “We are disappointed to learn Lord Taylor’s thinking appears to have reached a conclusion before the ‘stakeholder dialogue’ initiated by Defra has reached an end point.
“The combined effect of a lack of standards and the rise of commingled collection has resulted in recent years in a continued diminution of the quality of feedstock available to UK reprocessors.”