In an interview this week with with letsrecycle.com ahead of Thursday’s local government elections, Mrs Pow explained that discussions will be happening within the party on how to increase quality.
“There will be a lot of discussions going on about how exactly we get over the hill to get enough recycled products re-used by industry and how we can get them to do this”, said Mrs Pow who is MP for Taunton and a former Environment Audit Committee member.
She is also close to current ministerial thinking with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs where she holds the post of parliamentary private secretary.
Mrs Pow spoke of the need for quality and consistency with regard to local authorities and manufacturers, reasoning that: “The material must be good quality and sorted correctly and at the moment we have a myriad of different systems from local authorities, who are working hard.
“However, those which are most effective are those which work together with another district to benefit from greater economies of scale. I think in the future more should go down that road, to help collect more of the right material. This is also the same elsewhere in the industry, manufacturers must use similar products and not a myriad of different material for the same type of product.”
The MP made reference to the pledges made in the government’s 25 year environment plan, as well as Theresa May’s pledge for the government to leave the environment in a better position that they found it.
In recent months, a number of pledges have been made to reduce plastic. Last week the ‘Plastics Pact’ was launched, which saw a number of the UK’s leading manufacturers sign up to eliminate “problematic or unnecessary“ single-use plastic packaging by 2025.
However, one of the major criticisms was the lack of mandatory measures introduced to force producers to use packaging which can be easily recycled.
Mrs Pow stopped short of pledging her full support for a mandatory approach, but explained some circumstances in which she thinks it might be needed.
“It is like a carrot and stick, encouragement and the voluntary approach is good, and if that is not working you need to introduce some temporary regulations, as the party has done elsewhere such as the gas and energy markets.
“If the voluntary approach doesn’t work, you do need to introduce some regulations that chivvy it along. At the moment, for example we gradually phased out diesel cars, not simply banning them overnight. This highlights measures which ensure that industry takes action, as they can see the writing is on the wall.”
Mrs Pow did however point to the 5p carrier bag charge the government introduced to suggest that increased producer responsibility can be effective.
She continued: “We didn’t see any real difference until the charge. Now, everybody thinks about it and we have saved billions of bags from entering the environment. Sometimes it can be that tiny tweak and now, I am having conversations now about how much of a product, say a shampoo bottle, is made from recycled material or how much of it is recyclable.
“The industry is working towards improving this but we haven’t reached a point and that is where you must think, should we set targets? And really, if we do want to move in the right direction with recycling, these are ideas that must be looked at to ensure we all work together and get the industry moving in the right direction.”