Government measures to overhaul the system for recycling and waste management in England must deliver ‘value for money’, Lord Deben, has told letsrecycle.com. And, he urged a cautious approach to implementation of a Deposit Return Scheme.
His comments came as government officials prepare to consult on policies from the Resources and Waste Strategy, including overhauling packaging producer responsibility legislation, encouraging household recycling consistency and a deposit return scheme for drinks containers.
Lord Deben was secretary of state for the environment from 1993-1997. Then known as John Gummer MP, he oversaw the introduction of the packaging recovery note (PRN) system as well as paving the way for the introduction of the landfill tax He is also chair of the Valpak compliance scheme and of the government’s Committee on Climate Change.
Speaking to letsrecycle.com this week following the launch of the ‘Plastic Packaging Plan’ from the Policy Connect think tank (see letsrecycle.com), Lord Deben offered his support for a number of measures set out within the Strategy.
On packaging waste legislation, he said: “The most important thing is that everybody should be involved and there should not be a de-minimis. Secondly we do have to have a system where recycling is paid entirely by those who place material onto the market.”
Deposit return scheme
However, on the potential for a Deposit Return Scheme for plastic bottles and cans, he offered the view that it must be proven to offer ‘value for money’ in achieving its aims of improving recycling and reducing litter.
He said: “You need to get the right outcomes. I am all for testing mechanisms, but don’t let’s start off saying the DRS is bound to be the right system. Let’s try it in a pilot system and let’s measure it.
“If we have systems that cost money and don’t work we won’t have the money to have systems that do work and what’s more we will turn the public off.”
Lord Deben also backed a move towards greater consistency in household recycling collections.
“You need to get the right outcomes. I am all for testing mechanisms, but don’t let’s start off saying the DRS is bound to be the right system. Let’s try it in a pilot system and let’s measure it.”Lord Deben
“I hope then we will also have a single basic standard for recycling all over the country,” he said, adding: “It is quite wrong that local authorities should all have different systems. I also believe we should be paying more if we produce plastics which are not recycled, less if they are easily recycled and even less if we use a proper proportion of recyclate.”
Finally, the former minister offered advice to his successor Michael Gove, and urged him not to bow to ‘vested interests’ in the implementation of the Resources Strategy.
“Stick to your last and don’t let people divert you. Just recognise that there is a huge public out there that wants it, and will support you. Don’t let the vested interests under any guise stop you doing it,” he commented.