EXCLUSIVE: Shadow Environment Secretary Rachael Maskell has said Labour is “absolutely” committed to retaining a recycling target of 60% by 2030 in the event of the UK exiting the European Union.
Speaking exclusively to letsrecycle.com in Westminster today (8 September), the shadow minister pledged to uphold measures contained within the EU’s Circular Economy Package within UK legislation if the Labour Party is voted into government.
But the York Central MP – who has held the shadow environment post for just seven weeks – admitted her team was “still developing policy” on waste and recycling despite the publication of the Party’s Environment & Energy manifesto yesterday.
The document, which saw Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pledge to prioritise renewable energy and ban fracking, made no reference to Labour’s resource agenda or its recycling ambitions.
Playing down the omission, Ms Maskell explained waste played a “major role” in the Party’s environment plan, stating she needed time to ensure its strategy is as “progressive as it can be”.
She said: “We are very concerned about the regression we’ve seen on recycling, particularly among local authorities with a risk shift from central government down to local government. The lack of ambition and drive by this government is deeply concerning.”
Asked whether Labour would look to retain proposals put forward in the Circular Economy Package, including a 60% recycling target for England by 2030, the shadow minister added: “Absolutely. We don’t want to see any regression on that front and the EU has very much been about, particularly under a Conservative government, holding up these measures.
“I think it’s naïve to think things will progress under voluntary approaches. They have to be driven through a framework which makes things happen because if you’re talking about steering a cultural change through a voluntary approach, it will be very slow. These matters are more urgent than that.”
Her comments follow recycling minister Thérèse Coffey’s appearance before the Environmental Audit Committee yesterday, in which she suggested some of the proposals within the Circular Economy Package could be “damaging” (see letsrecycle.com story).
Ms Maskell was also asked whether she supported her predecessor Kerry McCarthy’s campaign to make food waste collections by councils mandatory – and if she regretted Labour’s 2015 U-turn on banning the material from landfill.
The shadow minister noted that food waste should only go to landfill as a “last resort” and would like to see “different models” to redirect the waste to create energy, such as anaerobic digestion.
On collections she added: “Mandatory is the way forward it’s about a totally different approach to waste management, to not just put it in the bin. This comes back to educations and consumption. Why are people buying in excess of what they need? Young people today are a captive audience.”
The Labour front-bencher confirmed that her Party had been aware of and largely supported former recycling minister Rory Stewart’s work to harmonise collections among councils, adding that “he had a very good grip of the brief”.
Pressed on how councils are expected to roll out collection consistency and mandatory food waste rounds given cuts to local government funding, she added: “That shows a lack of commitment nationally because they [the government] could ring-fence that money and give it to local authorities. This is about us being proper stewards of our nation’s resources and therefore we will make that commitment to make sure we approach waste in a different way.”