Lib Dems eye circular economy with concrete resource pledges

Pledges to move towards a circular economy through the introduction of a Zero-Waste Act and a 70 per cent statutory waste recycling target for England are among a raft of environmental proposals included in the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto, released today (17 May).

Lib Dems eye circular economy with concrete resource pledges
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron launches the party's manifesto
Aside from the well-publicised policies that the Liberal Democrats have already announced, such as a new referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, extending the right to vote to 16- and 17-year olds and the introduction of proportional representation for Westminster and local elections, the party has made explicit commitments on waste and resource use, the only party so far (with just the Conservatives to go) to do so this year.

While the party states its environmental priorities for the next Parliament are providing four million homes with insulation retrofits to make them more resource efficient, introducing an Air Quality Plan, and introducing a Zero-Carbon Britain Act committing to reducing net greenhouse emissions by 80 per cent by 2030 and to zero by 2050, the manifesto is the first to dedicate significant attention to the issues of waste, resource efficiency and the circular economy.

On the transition to a circular economy, the manifesto states: ‘Britain’s economy fails to make the most efficient use of natural resources. We aim to cut waste, increase recovery, reuse and recycling and move towards the so-called ‘circular economy’ in which resource use, waste and pollution are minimised and product lifetimes are extended. This will cut costs for consumers and businesses, and create new jobs and enterprises, helping to grow Britain’s economy.’

Key pledges

Specific commitments relating to the aims stated above include:

  • Passing a Zero-Waste Act with legally binding targets for reducing consumption of natural resources and introducing incentives for businesses to make resource efficiency a priority;
  • Promoting better product design to make it easier for consumers to repair, reuse and recycle products;
  • Establishing a statutory waste recycling target of 70 per cent in England and extending separate food waste collections to at least 90 per cent of UK homes by 2022;
  • Introducing a 5p charge on disposable coffee cups to reduce waste; and
  • Establishing a coherent and comprehensive tax and regulatory framework for landfill, incineration and waste collection, reinstating the landfill tax escalator, and consulting on the introduction of an incineration tax.

Furthermore, if elected on 8 June, the party says it will establish a Cabinet Committee on Sustainability and an Office for Environmental Responsibility to oversee the government’s efforts to implement and follow through on the targets and commitments laid out in their manifesto.

Lib Dems eye circular economy with concrete resource pledgesThe party says it will work to ensure that these commitments will be able to be fully funded through working with the local authorities on the front line of waste collection.

Election race picks up pace

With the election campaign now in full flow, we now have a clearer idea of where the parties stand on the environment policy. Out of the three party election manifestos released so far, the Liberal Democrats are the only party to make detailed pledges relating to waste and resource use.

Labour released its manifesto yesterday, making a series of pledges on the environment, including setting ‘guiding targets’ for plastic bottle deposit schemes, introducing a Clean Air Act, and committing to a low carbon economy, ensuring that 60 per cent of UK energy comes from zero carbon or renewable sources by 2030. There is no mention of the circular economy or measures for tackling waste and resource inefficiency.

Meanwhile, at a launch event in North London last week (11 May), Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas pledged to introduce a new Environmental Protection Act to enshrine EU environmental regulations into UK law, introduce a bottle deposit return scheme and a ban on unnecessary single-use plastics, as well as keeping fossil fuels in the ground and introducing new support for wind and solar power, as well as ending the monopoly of the Big Six energy companies. While the manifesto commits to a circular economy, it makes no pledges relating to resource use and waste, save for the bottle deposit scheme.

We now await the release of the Conservative and UKIP manifestos, to see if they contain any radical ideas to protect the environment and its natural resources. 

For more information, take a look at the 95-page manifesto on the Liberal Democrat website.

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