14 October 2019 by Lucy Pegg

Councils need not worry over DRS, says shadow minister

EXCLUSIVE: Local authorities should not be concerned about losing money if a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) is implemented, Labour’s Shadow Waste and Recycling Minister has told letsrecycle.com.

Sandy Martin has said councils should not lose out financially due to DRS schemes

He also supports council waste contracts moving in-house to create better services.

Sandy Martin – who has held the shadow cabinet position since 2018 – said it was “a very odd argument” that councils could face financial difficulties under a DRS because high value items like PET bottles and aluminium cans would be largely removed from kerbside collections.

The Ipswich MP explained: “On the balance sheet between the costs of collection, the costs of disposal and the income generated from recyclate, the income generated from recyclate is a very small item and is massively outweighed by the costs of collection.

“A DRS which puts the onus on the consumer to put the bottle or can into a machine which returns the deposit actually ought to save councils money rather than costing them.

He added: “It certainly won’t be a significant cost, we are talking about a very small amount of money that they get back for their recyclate compared to the costs of the collections

Mr Martin said that waste issues had reached a point where councils could not refuse to implement better policies just on the basis of them costing slightly more.

His statement differs from the more cautious advice given by Zero Waste Scotland at the LARAC Conference last week. (see letsrecycle.com story)

“A DRS which puts the onus on the consumer to put the bottle or can into a machine which returns the deposit actually ought to save councils money rather than costing them”

Sandy Martin, Shadow Waste and Recycling Minister

Commenting on the different materials which will be presented at the kerbside after DRS, Paul Doherty – sector manager at Zero Waste Scotland – said: “There is a challenge there for cost per household and we are going to work with local authorities to see what that cost might be.”

Insourcing

Mr Martin also defended Labour’s announcement that if in government it would make in-house contracts “the new normal” for local authority services. (see letsrecycle.com story)

Though the private waste management sector has claimed that competition leads to better services, the minister said “experience says otherwise”, particularly for waste collection.

“Some of the most efficient waste collections services in the country are provided inhouse by councils that have taken them inhouse and I know because my own council is one of them,” said Mr Martin, who was a councillor at Ipswich borough council and Suffolk county council before becoming an MP.

However he noted that some elements of the waste infrastructure were unlikely to be amenable to insourcing and said private waste management companies were likely to remain part of a future waste infrastructure.

WEEE

Mr Martin also signalled that a Labour government would bring in stronger WEEE regulations to ensure consumer products can be used for as long as possible.

“There are lots of things – washing machines, fridges, cookers – which should last far longer and there is currently no real incentive for manufacturers to make sure that they use the best technology to make sure that they do last longer,” he said.

Commenting on the Ecodesign and Energy Labelling package adopted by the European Commission earlier this month, the shadow minister said that he would like to make this legislation “go a lot further”, as well as ensuring it still applied in the UK after Brexit. (see letsrecycle.com story)

Mr Martin has called for stronger legislation to cut WEEE

Explaining further measures, he said: “I would want not only an obligation to publish average lifetime but also an obligation to provide a warranty for free which lasts for the average lifetime of the appliance.

“So if you buy a fridge that has a declared eight ear average lifespan then it will be guaranteed for that eight years. I think that’s a very good way of incentivising not just the retailers but the manufacturers to make sure they only sell things which will last.”

Residual waste

Labour would look to make the transition to a zero-waste society a key part of its commitment to a ‘green industrial revolution’.

But whilst residual waste still has to be dealt with, Mr Martin suggested there should be a “general programme of gradual obsolescence” for incinerators.

He explained: “I’m not talking about shutting down all the incinerators, that would be impractical. But if we get to the stage where the capacity of all the incinerators in the country is significantly greater than the amount of residual waste that we need to get rid of, then we will look at closing them down.”

Mr Martin said the least efficient and most polluting incinerators – also called Energy from Waste (EfW) plants – would be closed down first. He also stated that he had serious concerns about facilities that were built without Combined Heat and Power (CHP) capacity built in.

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