30 October 2019

Recycling policies face election uncertainty

The move by MPs to yesterday overwhelmingly back a snap election has cast uncertainty over the future of policies governing waste and recycling.

Last night, MPs voted for an election on December 12, which means that any parliamentary business – including the Environment Bill – will lapse when parliament dissolves next week. The bill would therefore need to be reintroduced, or could be scrapped altogether.

The Bill, which this week passed its second reading, includes new powers to introduce more consistent waste collections, extended producer responsibility and deposit return schemes for bottles, among other measures.

Election recycling

The government’s decision to back a snap election in December has cast uncertainty over the sector

The election also casts uncertainty over who will hold the environment and waste briefs when the new government forms, posts which are currently held by Theresa Villiers and Rebecca Pow respectively.

A ministerial reshuffle could be on the cards if the Conservatives win and new faces could be expected if Labour or the Liberal Democrats should come to power.

Although the focus is undoubtedly on Brexit for all competing parties, there is a general feeling that the environment will feature in election manifestos for all the major parties due to its rise up the public agenda over the last two years.

While the Conservatives have asserted their commitment to the Environment Bill, it remains unclear what policies would be pursued by the other major parties including Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

Labour has indicated that it would like to go further on the environment than the Conservatives, committing to a green ‘industrial revolution’. The party’s shadow environment secretary, Sandy Martin, has indicated that the party would put more emphasis on waste reduction over recycling and encouraging eco design.  The party has also shown support for deposit returns and bringing waste contracts in-house.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have indicated that their manifesto may include measures to cut waste, increase recycling and reuse and include a target for the complete elimination of single use plastics in three years (see letsrecycle.com story). They also have plans for a new Green Investment Bank.

Whatever the outcome, there will be a short-term hiatus in government business during the six-week purdah period prior to the election at a time when some in the industry have already criticised the “slipping timetable” in delivery of the government’s Resources and Waste Strategy.

The move to hold an election is still to be approved by the Lords but could become law by the end of this week. Individual party manifestos are then expected to be launched in the week of 18 November.

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