Defra minister for resource management, Rory Stewart, today (June 24) declared an ambition to see the UK become the “best country in the world for recycling”.
Making one of the strongest speeches in favour of recycling by a Defra minister in recent years, Mr Stewart said: “We really want to make the United Kingdom the very best country in the world for recycling. I’d like people in 20 years’ time, sitting around in grisly conferences in Australia or Austria or Canada, to say if you want to look at a country that is really leading the world, you should look at the United Kingdom.”
Mr Stewart also continued on the theme of “ambition” with reference to the Circular Economy proposals being refreshed by the new European Commission.
While noting that the proposals, which are due out later this year, should fit in with UK conditions and the needs of industry, he confirmed that Defra is working on making them “more ambitious”.
The junior minister said: “We are awaiting new proposals from the Commission but we are moving hard in the British government and with you to develop a new package of measures that are going to be more ambitious, I’m sure, than those that have been set out before. We have to make sure they are right for the UK and make sure you look at proposals, to make sure they meet our particular conditions and your particular businesses.”
Mr Stewart was addressing the combined annual conference of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, the Environmental Services Association and the Resource Association in London.
He also reflected on the need to tackle waste crime, to ensure resources are managed well and on the benefits that good waste management practices can bring to society.
He said: “If we are to keep humans on the earth for the next few hundred million years, which I think we hope we could, this industry and the work that you do is going to be absolutely central to keeping us all going.”
And, the junior ministry praised the industry for what has been achieved in the UK and pointed to Afghanistan and the waste management problems it had faced. He explained that he had worked in an NGO in Kabul and had seen streets transformed with the removal of a 7 feet depth of waste.
“There was no waste management in two city blocks, amd by the time I got there the garbage was literally seven feet deep in the streets. People were climbing over the courtyard walls to get into their houses. Their doors had locked up with garbage.”
Waste management work had helped to drive up life expectancy, reduced infant mortality and help get industry and commerce going in the Afghanistan city, he added.
Mr Stewart ended his address by praising his audience and the waste sector as a whole for its work and also promising to listen to its views.
He noted that the progress: “Over the last two decades has been due to your determination and your leadership all of you, not just people in the suits in this room but nearly 100,000 people across the United Kingdom …. All of you from the street level right the way through to the fanciest bits of technology are making the United Kingdom a real global leader in this field.”