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Labour should have stuck to its guns

The UK, it seems, is already well into the general election campaign - but who would have thought that waste policy would be lobbed across enemy lines in the opening salvoes?

MRW’s invited commentators are clear about what they would like to see in the parties’ manifestos, but they are equally sure they won’t be holding their collective breath.

The Conservative tactic this week of ‘Labour has promised to spend £Xbn but won’t say how they will fund it’ may have felt like a tired political strategy, but it prompted Labour into something of a U-turn over a ban on food waste to landfill. Such a commitment was reported by MRW in 2013 after a promise by the then shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh.

By last summer, though, a food ban was no longer being promoted, and shadow minister Barry Gardiner told us the party was carrying out a ‘zero base review’ in all policy areas.

So Labour may be justified in claiming, when faced with Tory claims that a food ban would cost £477m in a full year, that it was never formally party policy. But it should be. WRAP says that wasted food costs UK plc £12.5bn a year, so we need to find big ways of tackling that loss.

We have to start somewhere, so what is so wrong with keeping the stuff out of landfill? And what of the economic benefits of doing so?

The politically non-aligned Green Alliance think tank published research last spring which found that banning five types of material from landfill, including food, would save the UK economy up to £3.8bn. It was also claimed the move would support 47,500 skilled UK jobs as a result of an expansion of industry to reuse, remanufacture and recycle the banned materials.

Labour argues generally that appropriate investment (spending hard cash, in other words) will generate wealth. It is a shame the party was not prepared to stay with Creagh’s policy because I am sure that typical voters understand the invest-to-grow argument and are well aware of the issue of food waste, particularly in the global context.

Finally, I hope you enjoy our exclusive discussion on the future for recycling and I’d encourage you to watch the video we filmed afterwards.

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