Defra ministers are “passionate” about the circular economy, Parliament has been assured by the department’s minister in the House of Lords.
The assurance of passion for the circular economy among ministers at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs came just 24 hours before resource and recycling minister Rory Stewart headed to Brussels for a meeting of Europe’s council of environment ministers.
Recent weeks have seen concerns expressed by some in the waste and recycling sector that Defra is less than fully committed to the circular economy measures proposed by proposals (see letsrecycle.com story).
Now, however, speaking in response to a short debate on the circular economy in the House of Lords yesterday (3 March) Lord Gardiner of Kimble, Defra’s official spokesman in the Lords, said: “I can assure your Lordships that the ministerial team at Defra is passionate about this. Much progress has been made and, by working together, we must achieve more in the years to come, because this is for the benefit not only of the people of this country but of our environment and the world environment.”
The debate was also notable for several references to a pink hat along with extensive mentions of the Defra-backed charity WRAP with it referred to 14 times in the one hour-long debate.
WRAP board member, Conservative Baroness Jenkin of Kennington, described how she was carrying out reuse in her own “personal household circular economy”.
The Baroness said: “I had a beautiful pink hat which I bought in a charity shop. I wore and wore it until eventually I thought, “I cannot wear that pink hat anymore because they will all think that I’ve got only the one hat”; so, at a reception at a constituency event, when a lady came to me and said, “I so admire your pink hat”, there was no one happier than me to give it to her knowing that it would be loved and reused. That is the personal circular economy.”
The debate was opened by Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Labour), who is a former board member of WRAP. She highlighted difficulties in the plastics sector and said: “We have failed to develop robust markets for recyclable materials, so they do not achieve their true market value. For example, a couple of years ago, I was excited to visit a new factory in Redcar which was taking recycled plastic bottles and creating new plastic materials from them. However, that factory subsequently folded because it could not guarantee a regular-quality waste stream of plastic bottles and it could not compete on price with virgin materials. That clearly does not make sense. Recycled glass and paper businesses suffer the same challenges of maintaining quality and markets.”
Baroness Jones also called for Lord Gardiner to given an assurance of commitment to the circular economy. She said: “I am pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, is replying to this debate because I know that he shares many of our ideals. However, to be successful, the principles have to be embraced across government, particularly in BIS and the Treasury. I hope that he can reassure us that the Government are embracing these issues across government and are serious about adopting them. I look forward to his response.”
In his response, besides saying that ministers are passionate about the circular economy, Lord Gardiner also praised WRAP saying so “So many innovative ideas and initiatives have come through WRAP’s work.”