Labour’s Green Transformation environmental policy paper was launched at a Labour conference event organised by the Greener UK campaign alliance.
It focused on preventing dangerous climate change, and improving air and water quality and biodiversity. The word ‘recycling’ does not appear at all and ‘waste’ only in a brief section on plastics pollution. A Labour spokesperson confirmed to MRW that these issues would be addressed separately.
Shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman and shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said in a joint introduction: “Strong environmental policy is a matter of justice, and ensuring that communities can breathe clean air, drink clean water, afford a good diet and enjoy our countryside must be a priority for our party and our movement.”
They continued: “This document sets out Labour’s policies to tackle climate change, improve our environment and build a sustainable economy, along with the principles and priorities that underpin them.”
The brief mention of plastics pollution said Labour would “set guiding targets for plastic bottle deposit schemes, working with food manufacturers and retailers to reduce waste”.
Shadow environment minister David Drew said Labour had not intended to cover recycling in the Green Transformation document and did not indicate when this would be done: “We have been working on [waste and recycling] for some time and these parts were never part of this particular launch.”
Drew has previously told MRW he is working on a policy that would be “much more sceptical” towards incineration because it “crowds out” recycling.
In response, Recycling Association chief executive Simon Ellin said: “It is very strange that Labour’s environmental policy paper does not have a section on recycling or mention anything to do with resource efficiency.
“With so much focus on our sector right now, and the resources and waste strategy due to be unveiled soon, you would have thought recycling and resource efficiency would have been high on the party’s agenda.”
Labour Fringe Meeting
Environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy’s (KBT) fringe event at the Labour conference had the optimistic title ‘Building a world-leading waste and recycling system fit for the future’. Suez director of external affairs Adam Read was one of the speakers, as was Labour MP Rachel Maskell.
KBT launched an action plan, ‘Breaking Bad Habits: Moving Towards a Zero Waste Society’. The charity caused a stir as it called for a unified recycling system to be adopted by all councils – something those in England clearly do not want.
KBT said the number of different recycling systems was “barmy” and it was unsurprising that recycling rates had flatlined, given the public confusion this created. KBT called for the creation of a nationally consistent service, funded by contributions from manufacturers.
KBT chief executive Allison Ogden-Newton said: “The public has a huge role to play in helping to drive this change. But we need to get rid of the existing complexity and develop a simple, nationally consistent collection system combined with tangible rewards to encourage better recycling.”
In response the Local Government Association (LGA) said: “Our current view is no one size would work.” Most councils are locked into long-term waste contracts, and are highly sensitive about anything that would appear to reduce their powers and hand them to central Government.
LGA environment spokesman Martin Tett, leader of Buckinghamshire County Council, said: “Recycling has been a real success story for councils and residents. Eight out of 10 people are happy with the way their council collects their rubbish.”