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Waste management industry responds to new Government

Figures in the waste management industry are “optimistic” about the impact of a Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government on the recycling agenda, but have warned there is still much to do.

The coalition government will mean the inevitable combination of key Conservative and Liberal Democrat waste management pledges, proposed in their recent election manifestos.

In their “Invitation to join the government of Britain” manifesto, the Conservative party laid out key plans to put floors under landfill tax until 2020, as well as introducing a voluntary ‘responsibility deal’. The Liberal Democrat party pledged more direct aims for a zero-waste society, and increasing the uptake of anaerobic digestion technologies.

International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) vice president Jeff Cooper told MRW that the two sets of pledges were compatible: “Clearly we’ve got reasonable [waste management] commitments in the Conservative manifesto but a more robust green approach as far as the Liberal Democrat manifesto is concerned.

“I would have thought that if we build upon what the Conservatives already said with regard to landfill tax [and] supporting the ‘escalator’ there, and the fact that we’ve got the Lib Dem building on that in terms of climate change, [then] I think it’s good news from a regulatory perspective.”

Cooper also commented that he sought the protection of the government-funded Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), which may be under threat from the mooted Conservative “bonfire of the quangos”.

Cooper said: “I’m hoping that the work of organisations like WRAP with its broadened portfolio is not going to suffer because it’s providing very good data and information for businesses that are seeking to reduce their environmental impact.”

Friends of the Earth (FoE) resource use campaigner Julian Kirby said that he was “hopeful” for the new coalition and that “there are opportunities for them to show some real ambition”. However, he warned that this was an unfamiliar situation, and called for strong targets to be put in place early on.

Kirby said: “We have come a long way on recycling rates with the last Government but we need to do to more match previous progress with ambition for the next ten years. We should aim for 75% by 2020 and that is just not ambitious, it’s reasonable, it’s achievable.

“Emphasis needs to be on sustainable waste management and when moving waste up the hierarchy, it needs to be moved as far as possible than rather than just into what is regarded as the “next-least-worst” option which is incineration and energy from waste. There are some promising talents among the government now, who will hopefully represent the best of their policies.”

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