Lib Dems would bring in a 70 per cent recycling target

The Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems) would bring in a 70 per cent recycling target in England, introduce an incineration tax, and reinstate the landfill tax escalator, if voted into power on 7 May.

Lib Dems would bring in a 70 per cent recycling target

The pledges, which form part of the Lib Dems’ ‘Manifesto 2015: Stronger Economy. Fairer Society. Opportunity for Everyone’, seek to deliver an ‘an economy that is strong, green, open and fair’.

According to the document, the Lib Dems envisage that the ‘successful economies of the future will be “circular” – where waste and the use of non-renewable resources are minimised and recovery, reuse and recycling are maximised’.

Waste and recycling policies

To bring this about, the Lib Dems propose bringing forward a ‘comprehensive waste strategy to build a thriving reuse and recycling industry’. As part of this, the party will pass a Resource Efficiency and Zero Waste Act (as part of its ‘Five Green Laws’) to:

  • task the Natural Capital Committee with producing a ‘Stern report’ on resource use, identifying resources being used unsustainably and recommending legally-binding targets for reducing their net consumption;
  • establish a statutory waste recycling target of 70 per cent in England;
  • introduce regulation to promote design that enhances repairability, reuse and recycling, by requiring specified products to be sold with parts and labour guarantees for ‘at least five years’;
  • establish a ‘coherent tax and regulatory framework’ for landfill, incineration and waste collection to ‘drive continuous increases in reuse and recycling rates and ensure only non-recyclable waste is incinerated’;
  • reinstate the landfill tax escalator (which was scrapped this year, in favour of the tax rising in line with inflation) and extend it to the lower rate of landfill tax;
  • consult on the introduction of an incineration tax;
  • commission the Natural Capital Committee to investigate the potential for other resource taxes, including deposit-refund schemes;
  • encourage the growth of anaerobic digestion to produce biogas for heat and transport, and sustainable fertiliser; and
  • work with local authorities to extend separate food waste collections to at least 90 per cent of homes by 2020.

As well as these actions, the Lib Dem manifesto also reveals that the party would work to increase penalties for waste crimes, aiming to move from an average fine of £50,000 to £75,000, and to increase the average sentence prison sentence from 12 to 18 months, as well as helping to ‘incentivise sustainable behaviour by increasing the proportion of tax revenue accounted for by green taxes’.

Creating a Cabinet committee to oversee resource management

Other ‘green’ recommendations include:

  • establishing a senior Cabinet committee to coordinate action and bringing together officials in inter-departmental units on issues like air quality and resource management;
  • creating an office for environmental responsibility that would scrutinise the government’s efforts to meet its environmental targets;
  • increasing research and development and commercialisation support in tidal power; carbon capture and storage; energy storage; and ultra-low emission vehicles;
  • encourage the creation of green financial products to bring consumer capital into green industries;
  • stimulate a minimum of £100 billion more private investment in low-carbon energy infrastructure by 2020;
  • set a legally-binding decarbonisation target range for 2030 for the power sector of 50–100 grammes of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour (which is more lenient than the Green Party’s decarbonisation target proposals);
  • aim to have 60 per cent of electricity produced by renewable sources by 2030; and
  • encourage the wider use of biogas and argue for the reform of EU policies on biofuels and biomass which ‘drive deforestation, including ending all support for food-crop-based biofuels after 2020’.

‘A blueprint for a stronger economy’

Speaking at the launch this morning (15 April), in which a power cut momentarily cut the leader’s microphone and plunged the room into darkness, Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “This manifesto is a blueprint for a stronger economy and a fairer society. This manifesto is a plan to finish the job of balancing the books, and to do so fairly by protecting our schools, hospitals and public services.

“This manifesto is an insurance policy against a government lurching off to the extremes. At its heart is one word that is absolutely central to what Liberal Democrats believe: opportunity.”

Cabinet committee welcomed by industry

The Liberal Democrat manifesto has been welcomed by the industry, with Ray Georgeson, Chief Executive of the Resource Association, saying that the trade association for the reprocessing and recycling industries and their supply chain waspleased to see the Liberal Democrats become the first of the major parties in its general election manifesto to expressly commit to institutional reform to improve coordination of resources policy across government”.

Touching on the increasing calls for government to set up an office for resource management, Georgeson said that a senior Cabinet committee that oversees a new resource management unit “mirrors” these proposals, and “is welcomed”.

He continued: “Alongside a commitment to the urgently needed review of the impact of climate change on the availability of resources (the so-called Stern for Resources) this is potentially an important step forward for UK resources policy.”

Nigel Mattravers, Waste and Resource Management Panel Chair at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), also welcomed the proposals, saying: “If the UK is serious about achieving a shift from waste to resource management and a ‘circular economy’, we need strategic leadership from ministers so the principle is entrenched across all government departments.

ICE has long proposed the creation of some form office for resource management within a government department to really drive this forward and coordinate. We are encouraged by the Liberal Democrats’ support for this and urge other parties to also explore the idea further.”

'Party still too wedded to fossil fuels'

Environmental campaigning body Friends of the Earth stated that although the Lib Dem manifesto has "some bold environmental commitments", it stated that the party had "failed to sufficiently stand up to the Conservatives in office" and are "still too wedded to fossil fuels".

The Renewable Energy Association (REA) agreed, arguing that “of all the manifestos released this week, the Liberal Democrats’ is the one that is both the most surprising, and the most disappointing to the wider renewable energy industry".

It added: “Whilst we welcome their acknowledgement of the importance of renewable energy to the UK’s energy mix, including support for the commercialisation of key technologies, they have also turned their back on polices that will make a real difference to a cost effective low-carbon transition that will benefit UK PLC as well as energy consumers. 

“Without a mention of solar or energy storage, the Lib Dems have also signalled their disdain for large biomass, a technology that provides a more cost-effective baseload low-carbon generation than their much heralded Hinckley B nuclear ambitions. Such policies seem to have been formed off the back of misguided views on forest sustainability that has no foundation in evidence and has even been discredited by DECC, a department they have run for the past five years.

“Whilst encouraging that they have acknowledged the growth of anaerobic digestion to produce biogas for heat and transport, their recommendation to end all support for crop-based biofuels shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the reality of farming and crops and the practicality of running AD plants as part of the circular economy."

Read the Lib Dems’ ‘Manifesto 2015: Stronger Economy. Fairer Society. Opporunity for Everyone’.

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