Labour’s Shadow Waste and Recycling Minister has said that the government’s Resources and Waste Strategy does not put enough emphasis on waste reduction.
Sandy Martin, who is MP for Ipswich and has held the shadow post for a year, said that while the document had many positives, Labour did not agree with all elements of the plan which was announced in December.
Speaking at the Packaging Innovations and Luxury Packaging event last Thursday (12 September), Mr Martin said: “It is not challenging enough, it is not comprehensive enough, it does not put enough emphasis on waste prevention instead of waste recycling.
“It is unnecessary to single out plastic and unhelpful to single out packaging. The issue is not if packaging is recyclable but if it is recycled.”
Mr Martin argued that packaging should be used as a way to reduce the level of waste for the products being packaged and that the Resource and Waste Strategy’s 2050 target for eliminating all avoidable waste had been put “too far into the future and lacked detail”.
And, he slammed the PRN system as a “complete failure” which had made “some people money” but failed to change how people produced packaging.
The shadow minister – who has been in his role since October 2018 – expressed concern about how Brexit would impact consistency, particularly on packaging labelling.
He said: “Brexit will make it more difficult to ensure that all producers are working to the same standards.”
However he noted that it was likely the UK would comply with EU packaging and recycling laws even if Brexit went ahead and that he supported recycling labelling systems which stretched beyond national borders.
“I think that if we had a system that operated across the world that would be ideal but failing that a system that operated across the whole of the European Union would be amazing.”
The MP also praised the recycling system used in Wales which sees consistency in collection across all council covered by the devolved Labour administration.
Contamination from plastic in composting is an issue Mr Martin sees within waste and recycling at present.
He said: “There’s a clear way forward for food waste which is anaerobic digestion – but farmers who use composted food waste have a serious problem with plastic contamination in the compost.
He called for regulation of compostable plastic to ensure it was not contaminating organic products and was being sent to facilities where it could be processed appropriately.
Questioned about how funds raised by a potential Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) system would be distributed, Mr Martin said that the money needed to help those working on the “correct” end destinations.
He added: “I don’t believe incineration is the correct end destination for the majority of our waste and what we need to do is designate correct end destinations to make sure that EPR is going to those correct end destinations.”
The Packaging Innovations and Luxury Packaging event also saw a panel discussion on how a circular economy could be achieved by packaging designers better understanding waste management infrastructure.
Richard Kirkman – chief technology and innovation officer at Veolia – encouraged the audience of packaging professionals to visit Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) when they were designing packaging and claimed his company was ready to invest money in infrastructure once it was certain what legislation would be passed by government.
WRAP’s strategic engagement manager, Helen Bird, said that funding to push circular economy initiatives had to come from EPR and urged businesses not to make sustainability an afterthought when designing.