We need local solutions to dispose of waste - and no incineration
By Elizabeth Slow
Discussing issues affecting the waste sector, David Drew MP, has endorsed the case for local solutions for managing and reducing waste.
In an interview with letsrecycle.com ahead of this week’s local elections, the Labour MP for Stroud, who also serves as shadow DEFRA minister, overseeing waste and resource issues, said China has been “a real wakeup call.”
David Drew MP has endorsed the case for local solutions for managing waste ahead of the local elections this week
“We thought we were getting away with all this stuff that was being collected and disposed of in legitimate ways and basically it’s gone on ships to China and then being burnt or chucked in the ground – well that’s not recycling that’s just dumping your problem somewhere else.”
Instead, Mr Drew said he is a “great believer” in local solutions, which he suggested give the public an insight into what happens with their waste. “You can’t do that with everything because you’ve always got some residual waste, but a lot of it can be disposed of and reused locally,” he explained. “Then people I think would become more accustomed to why they need to recycle.”
The shadow minister also revealed that he is “totally opposed” to incineration, and is concerned that it could be “crowding out” recycling. He said that local authorities need to receive more direction from government towards “appropriate environmental solutions”.
“We’re in a kind of strange period where landfill is going very quickly, we’re rushing ahead with incineration which I think is a terrible diversion,” he explained. “And recycling, we’ve proved that where you’ve got enthusiasm and you’ve got authorities who are prepared to put resources in people do it – but if you don’t then they won’t.”
He spoke about the importance of lower performing authorities improving their recycling performance, the need to increase the recycling rate nationally and discussed some of the work which Stroud district council has undertaken which has “dramatically increased” recycling, including new food waste and garden waste services.
And, the Labour MP called on the government to provide a clear strategy. “I would say, is quite confusing. It’s very unclear if it’s encouraging this rush towards incineration or whether it just says well it’s not our responsibility it’s up to local authorities.”
My view is that plastics is all about convenience and we have to rethink our lifestyle so that the way in which we get rid of materials becomes a key element, a key component, of the way in which we produce things. David Drew MP
Mr Drew also appeared to be in favour of legislation as a way of driving improvements in recycling packaging. “My view is that plastics is all about convenience and we have to rethink our lifestyle so that the way in which we get rid of materials becomes a key element, a key component, of the way in which we produce things.
“So a lot of what we produce is packaging which is not necessary, which is difficult to remove, and to be fair when I’ve been to various conferences producers have got the message what they need is the help to make the transition and that is an issue about whether you do it voluntary,” he said.
“Legislation through all its faults and certainly regulation does set standards and we need to have the highest standards because if we’re not doing it other parts of the world won’t do it.”
In terms of how important waste and recycling will be to the upcoming elections Mr Drew said “sadly not enough”. He said a real issue is that waste is still regarded as “one of those necessary, but not very interesting issues” and emphasised the importance of educating the public.
“The only way you can get people to think recycle first is by a process of exaltation, education and encouragement – there’s no magic formula.” And, he explained: “We could and should be doing a lot more.”