The opening address at this year’s LARAC local authority conference saw senior Liberal Democrat politician, Baroness Huntingdon-Mandeville point to landfill tax as the driving force behind recycling.
The Baroness – who as Cathy Bakewell – served as a councillor and leader on Somerset county council, also indicated what her political party is focusing on, plus questioned recycling in the London Borough of Waltham Forest. She is currently spokesperson for the Lib Dems on environmental issues, including waste, in the House of Lords.
She started her address with an emphasis to the officers present that she “was a politician and proud to be so, despite what the media and the public think about politicians.
In terms of the political agenda, the Baroness said recycling had moved up it and that “dealing with waste has to transcend party politics”, and she urged that everyone needed to recognise that “the only way forward is to produce innovative ways to deal with waste.”
After commenting on how Somerset was to move to three weekly collections, she noted that China had “moved quite rightly to stop collecting plastic waste with some local authorities only collecting plastic bottles.”
But while Somerset was strong on recycling, she questioned whether the London borough of Waltham Forest really recycled materials, explaining that she had a flat in Walthamstow and she had a “a real fear that it goes straight to landfill”.
With an election possible, the Lib Dems had worked on their manifesto for the next election, she said. “This will include measures to cut waste, increase recycling and reuse and we will have a target for the complete elimination of single use plastic in three years.”
After emphasising the importance of recycling, she cautioned against the use of landfill and referred to the costs that could be spent on this disposal route”
“Social care could be a bottomless pit but ratepayers would prefer that their council tax was spent there rather than on landfill…. We must recycle everything including clothes, not just for the animals who we share the planet with but for our children who will inherit the planet”.
The conference also heard from Julie Gallacher, head of sustainability at Nespresso who gave a presentation from a producer’s perspective.
She explained that Nespresso had introduced a chain of custody for its coffee with advantages to farmers in terms of living standards and income, and measures to reduce water consumption and to promote biodiversity were in place. However, she came under some criticism from delegates for the Nespresso concept.
Some present felt that the single use capsule approach was less than idea and that the carbon impact would be high.
However, Mrs Gallacher reasoned that there were carbon benefits to the Nespresso approach and that a 29% recycling rate for the aluminium capsules had been achieved. One problem for the company was that in MRFs, the capsules were not being successfully captured for recycling because of their small size.