Sector reactions: Labour wins General Election

After 14 years under a Conservative government, Labour leader Keir Starmer has been announced as the new UK prime minister.

Generally, it’s clear to see that the waste and recycling sector are open to the change, and seem hopeful that the change in leadership will encourage stability and continued progress with existing regulations. However, there is a feeling that recycling and waste, particularly single-use plastics, wasn’t adequately addressed in Labour’s manifesto

Executive Director of the ESA, Jacob Hayler, said that although the win wasn’t a surprise, given polling over the last year, the association looks forward to working with new ministers and parliamentarians in due course, to deliver a “more resource-efficient, lower-carbon, circular economy in the UK”.

He continued: “Importantly, with a large parliamentary majority, we hope that this brings stability, clarity and renewed drive to policy delivery for our sector, which will allow our members to invest billions in world-class new recycling infrastructure and services, decarbonise the treatment of the nation’s rubbish, and help meet the environmental targets to which this new government is bound.”

Michael Topham, Biffa CEO, has acknowledged the government’s pledges to collaborate with industry to deliver its manifesto commitments, including a renewed industrial strategy, infrastructure proposals and ‘green’ economic growth. He said: “A stable and clear policy environment with realistic timetables and as much consistency as possible across all devolved nations will be key to allowing the waste sector to invest and innovate.”

He emphasised what the government should do first, where waste is concerned: “Its first priority for the waste sector must be to successfully implement planned policies such as Extended Producer Responsibility, Simpler Recycling and a UK-wide deposit return scheme for drinks bottles and cans.

“We also urge the government to make the Plastics Packaging Tax more ambitious over time, to ban the export of unprocessed plastic waste, and to support the decarbonisation of our sector through promoting carbon capture and zero emissions collections. Through these policies we can ensure that recycling is maximised and that we deal with our own waste properly, here in the UK.

“With the right policies in place, the waste sector has the skills, capital and ambition to deliver a circular economy for the UK. Delivering a more sustainable UK waste sector is not easy but represents a huge opportunity. We are ready to support the new government in rising to the challenge.”

Topham also flagged the urgency required to decarbonise energy and transport systems: “Biffa has already started to adopt alternative fuels across our fleet, with more than 94 battery electric vehicles and electric HGVs, and 64 renewable diesel (including HVO) fueled vehicles, in service.”

He acknowledged Labour’s pledge to be a “clean energy superpower” and said that energy recovery from waste has a key role to play in achieving this. He added: “However, the capacity needed across the UK’s network of energy recovery facilities (ERFs) is almost in place. The government should now impose a moratorium on granting planning permissions for new ERFs.

“In addition, the government must support the development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) at ERFs. This will be crucial to help the waste sector move towards net zero.”

The Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA) has said that Labour must “immediately reaffirm” the UK’s commitment to green targets and global leadership, to reassure markets and attract investment. It also encouraged the party to be “bolder and more ambitious”, to create jobs and increase skills within the sector.

Trevor Hutchings, CEO of the REA, said: “We would encourage Sir Keir and his team to galvanise a sector that can boost the UK economy and achieve his target of the highest growth in the G7. The impacts of climate change are already being felt around the world and the longer we delay the higher the costs of addressing it become. We will also miss out in the global race for investment and talent in the technologies of the future.”

Co-founder of A Plastic Planet & Plastic Health Council, Sian Sutherland, said that clear and comprehensive policy that takes a long-term vision over “short-term tokenism” is the only vehicle to fight the impact of plastic. She added: “Having secured a historic majority, Prime Minister Starmer and his government now has no excuse to not implement lasting policies that tackle the plastic crisis head on. For years, our country has subjected to a distinct lack of ambition and delay from the Conservatives, all whilst our neighbours in the EU have pulled ahead. Now is the time for ambition and for the UK to lead. Piecemeal bans and tired models of recycling won’t cut it.”

“Science must inform legislation that provides certainty to business and signals that single use plastic will no longer be the norm; crucially putting in place a level of accountability for the biggest polluters intent on disrupting change. Investment in innovative British solutions, another element desperately needed and has been neglected. On the international stage, with the final round of negotiations for a UN Global Plastics Treaty in November, the Prime Minister has a clear opportunity to revitalise British diplomacy in advocating for a comprehensive global treaty informed by science.”

Paul Sanderson of the Recycling Association said: “Of course, the Recycling Association looks forward to working with the new Labour Government led by Sir Keir Starmer. The Labour manifesto had no detail at all on recycling and the circular economy, but I would hope we’ll see stability and continuity with some key tweaks on policy affecting us over the coming weeks and months. “

Jane Martin, CEO of City to Sea, who recently wrote an op-ed about government manifestos and the lack of mentions for plastic, said: “Globally, there have been great strides to tackle the single-use culture drowning our planet in plastic waste; the EU has developed the PPWR, and deposit returns schemes have been implemented in a number of countries with great success.

“Simply, the UK is being left behind. To end the array of broken pledges, Labour must mandate a UK-wide all-in deposit return scheme, set legally binding reusable packaging targets, and implement a complete ban on all unnecessary single-use plastics.

“The public are tired of dithering and empty promises. A circular economy only thrives when supported by robust policies and we welcome the opportunity to work with new MPs to fulfil the party’s manifesto commitments and tackle the plastic problem once and for all.”

Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) has said it welcomes the new government’s emphasis on tackling climate change through rapid growth of renewables. “The key now is delivery. We can build hundreds of new green gas plants by the time of the next election” said Chris Huhne, chair of ADBA. “Green gas can and should grow faster than wind, and second only to solar according to International Energy Agency projections.

“Energy from home-grown green gas will overtake energy from nuclear by 2029 on current trends. Because green gas is created by using waste streams from farming, food and industry, it is a British resource that can protect us against Putin hikes in gas prices and curb our energy imports.

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