Labour shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman has said Defra’s resources and waste strategy falls short of the action necessary to bolster the UK’s recycling infrastructure.
The strategy was launched by environment secretary Michael Gove at a Veolia recycling facility. It proposes, among other things, a deposit return scheme (DRS), mandatory food waste prevention targets for businesses, compulsory electronic tracking of waste plus tougher penalties for waste criminals.
In all, six consultations will be launched in 2019 and one in early 2020 to support the strategy.
Legislation for a DRS for England, extended producer responsibility and mandatary separate food waste collections is scheduled for 2023.
Hayman said: “Michael Gove is living up to his reputation as the secretary of state for consultations, big on speculative plans and kicking ideas into the long grass.
“You cannot aim to prevent fly-tipping without ending [funding] cuts to the councils that deal with waste and recycling. And we need a plan for stopping the export of UK recycling and waste plastics to countries where they currently end up in a landfill or polluting our oceans.
“Rather than a vision for building our recycling infrastructure, it talks about voluntary action and distant target deadlines, while talking up the value of more incinerators.
“Labour is calling for a comprehensive and robust strategy to reduce waste, improve UK waste and recycling infrastructure and bring forward a plastic bottle return scheme to help tackle the scourge of plastic waste.”
Outspoken chair of the environmental audit committee, Mary Creagh, also criticised the strategy’s proposals as taking action “too little, too slowly”.
Gove is being summoned before the committee on 19 December to give evidence on Defra’s latest strategy and, in particular, plans to tackle plastic packaging waste and reform the packaging recovery note system.
Creagh’s complaint is that many of the start dates for proposed changes are too far off.
She said: “The Government appears to be kicking the waste can down the road yet again. The plastic bottle DRS promised in 2018 won’t be ready until 2023.
“Textile waste piling up in landfill won’t be tackled until even later. With scientists warning that we have just 12 years to tackle climate change, this strategy is too little, too slowly.”
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) was also concerned that the resources and waste strategy was too slow, although it welcomed the ‘producer pays’ approach.
The CPRE also welcomed the introduction of a DRS, which it said could boost recycling of on-the-go drinks packaging to 90%. Litter programme director Samantha Harding said: “However, the roll-out of such a system may not happen for another five years.
“With the Scottish Government expected to introduce its deposit system by 2020 and the packaging producers – who would pay for the system – wanting it to be UK-wide, why does our Government think it would take a further three years to get in line?”
She added: “The best way to tackle the devastation caused to our natural world by waste is by reducing the amount of waste we produce. The Government must work with manufacturers towards a circular economy for waste, put a halt to built-in obsolescence and ensure that products are built to last.”
The last resources and waste strategy review was carried out in 2011; 18 months ago Gove announced a review but it has been put back several times.
The Government’s 25-year environment plan published in January 2018 committed it to producing the review this year.