Labour’s environment spokesperson Sue Hayman has accused environment secretary Michael Gove of attempting to “scupper” the EU’s 65% recycling target.
Environmental charity Greenpeace said it had seen leaked documents showing that UK officials had opposed the target. The Greenpeace Unearthed blog said that, according to one EU diplomat, the UK had been “quite blunt”.
An agreement on the target within the EU circular economy package was reached between the EU Commission and Parliament in December. The target was lowered from an initial proposal of 70% put forward in the first draft of the package.
In response to Greenpeace’s revelations, Hayman wrote to Gove outlining her concerns.
She said: “The UK’s opposition to the 65% target for 2035 was revealed in a record of a meeting of EU ambassadors in December, despite this being a reduced target originally sought by the EU by 2030.”
She asked Gove to confirm whether Defra officials had estimated that meeting the target would save nearly £10bn over a decade in “waste sector, greenhouse gas and social costs”, as has been reported.
Hayman also pointed out that the UK’s recycling rate in 2015 fell for the first time, while fly-tipping was “at an eight-year high”.
“The fact that you and Government colleagues appear to be opposing ambitious recycling targets does not bode well for the UK’s ability to get back on track in this area,” she wrote.
She added that the documents revealed by Greenpeace contradicted Gove’s assertions that environmental standards will not be watered down following Brexit.
The final agreement between EU member states on the 65% target has yet to be reached.
A Defra spokesperson told Greenpeace: “The Government will make a decision on its vote following close scrutiny of the proposals, which are still provisional.
“Our recycling rates are rising, less waste is now sent to landfill and separate food waste collections are increasing, but as set out in the Clean Growth Strategy and 25-year environment plan, we are working with industry to improve the nation’s recycling rates further.”