One senior MP specialising in the environment has called for more investment in the waste sector and a greater emphasis on industrial strategy.
Mary Creagh, the Labour MP who chairs the Environmental Audit Committee, is concerned that ministers do not embrace the concept of a circular economy (CE) and she had had little opportunity to influence recent shadow environment secretaries.
Creagh’s comments come in a wide-ranging interview for the latest issue of MRW.
She pointed out that the Government’s current consultation on industrial strategy, which includes the waste sector, will produce only a green paper, whereas she believed firmer policies were needed to frame the UK’s environment legislation once we leave the EU.
“[Ministers] always put things off, [which] is a really problematic tactic for the British waste and recycling sector because you have no regulatory certainty, no stimulus to the sector and the Government is ideologically committed to allowing markets to find solutions,” she said.
“The problem is that when you are putting tens or hundreds of millions of pounds into MRFs, you cannot just do it on a wing and a prayer. You need the certainty to know that, for the money flowing in at the beginning, you are going to get the money back.”
Creagh believes such reasons are why recycling rates fell last year for the first time since records began in the 1990s.
”It is not because people are confused; it is because the investment has stopped and landfill tax credit has run out of road, so we need a new stimulus.”
She is also concerned at ministers’ unwillingness to embrace the CE concept because, in her view, “they see it as a bit of an EU idea”.
“What is clear is that resource efficiency is the name of the game in terms of all future economies. We have an intellectual lead on some of this stuff in the UK [but] Brexit poses risks to that.”
The MP listed uncertainty about university collaboration, innovation and working across companies as issues that could “materially affect our progress towards a resource-efficient economy”.
MRW suggested that little of substance had been offered from Labour’s shadow environment ministers in the past 18 months.
Creagh said she had not advised any of the three shadow environment secretaries, including current incumbent Sue Hayman, on ideas to put meat on the bare bones of her party’s expressed desire for a “recycling revolution”.
“There was a meeting in the diary that didn’t happen for a variety of reasons. But that is not to say I would not share [the EAC’s work] with them,” she said.
- Creagh’s Big Interview with Rob Preston is in the April 2017 issue of MRW