The Labour Party is undertaking a review of its waste policy to coincide with the progress of the EU’s circular economy (CE) package.
The announcement came from shadow environment secretary Kerry McCarthy at the launch of a report from the Environmental Services Association on delivering growth in the resource and waste management sector.
McCarthy (pictured) said the review would build on that of 2013 which called for an exercise similar to the comprehensive Stern Review which, in 2006, considered the economics of climate change, the nature of the economic challenges and how they can be met, in the UK and globally.
“In the coming months we will be reviewing [policy] during which time the CE package should be finalised and agreed – that will obviously feed into it,” she said.
“We will look into how the private sector is incentivised to help deliver higher recycling and greater use of materials, and what role regulation and voluntary approaches should play in stimulating markets to recycle or reuse materials.”
The MP wanted ministers to embrace the CE package, but she warned that their “ideological aversion to regulation” risked hamstringing the UK’s role in negotiations and in implementing the package.
“The Government at the moment sees a sign of success as getting the word ‘voluntary’ into an agreement. It’s a clear ideological divide.”
McCarthy added there was no contradiction between being pro-business and understanding the value of good regulation.
She highlighted the recent debate about the 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups that are not recycled in the UK every year.
“I don’t think that [Defra] is ambitious enough. I’d like to call on the Government to convene a ‘coffee cup summit’ as one example where progress can be made to help find a solution.”
She said she had raised the specific waste stream with Defra and been told that necessary obligations for waste producers were in place.
“It has ruled out the very measures that will make a difference. There is a tendency just to weigh up the cost to producers without assessing potential economic opportunities and widening out that assessment to the environment and consumers.
“There’s not an intelligent cost-benefit analysis going on. What we have is a recipe for inaction.”