Environment secretary Michael Gove’s speech to the Conservative Party conference lacked “real content on the subject of waste and recycling”, a senior Biffa manager has said.
Jeff Rhodes (pictured), the company’s head of environment and external affairs, said a fringe event had seen environment minister Therese Coffey preview an expected forthcoming announcement on taxing single-use plastics in the upcoming resources and waste strategy.
“While plastics remains high on the Government’s agenda, in contrast to the fringe event, it was disappointing to see a lack of real content on the subject of waste and recycling in Mr Gove’s speech,” Rhodes said.
“Aside from a nod to the growing issue of waste crime, there was no reference to the fact that recycling rates in Britain have continued to plateau for years.”
He said the industry was “in the dark about our nation’s waste and resources outlook post-Brexit” until the resources and waste strategy, expected this autumn, is published.
Gove’s conference speech discussed food and plastics recycling but was largely silent on the forthcoming strategy.
Rhodes said: “It is essential that we recognise the real issue here which will fundamentally effect change – identifying and tackling the problem at the source.
“This means drastically streamlining the plastics materials that enter the marketplace in our supermarkets and shops, and identifying these before they become waste.
“So, in practice, [this means] implementing eco-design of packaging for recyclability, using fewer types of plastic, clearer labelling and greater use of secondary material content.”
He said such an approach had shown to be a success in the plastic bag tax, and “we passionately believe a similar approach will work for plastic packaging”.
Nearly 30 industry figures were invited to an hour-long private meeting with Gove at Defra days before the conference took place. Participants said the meeting was for “information in” and that no specific details on the strategy were shared by Gove.
The meeting’s agenda included general titles such as “resource efficiency challenges” and how the regulatory environment could be ”changed to stimulate ambition and creativity in the private sector”.