Mary Creagh named as 2016’s top waste influencer

MPs worried about environment's position in Brexit negotiationsMP Mary Creagh, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, has been named as the winner of this year’s Resource Hot 100.

With all those on the list nominated and voted for by the public, this year’s 100 final entrants demonstrate the different levels on which a difference can and is being made in the waste and resources movement.

This year, there were also places in the top 10 for Cat Fletcher (4), Reuse Manager at Brighton & Hove City Council and Director of Freegle, and Sam Taylor (10), Recycling Coordinator at St Nicks in York, who have both made huge differences to recycling and reuse in their local communities, creating buzz and interest at a personal level.

But it was Creagh, who has been making her mark as the Chair of the EAC, Parliament’s environmental watchdog, that clinched the top spot.

In the past year, the EAC has taken the government to task over the issue of plastic microbeads, delivered a stinging rebuke to the Treasury for putting short-term priorities over long-term sustainability, highlighted the need to protect the environment post-Brexit (by ensuring vital EU-driven safeguards don’t turn to ‘zombie legislation’), questioned the intentions of the Green Investment Bank prospective buyer Macquarie, and even volunteered to test the Winnow smart food waste meter in her home, in an effort to end the nation’s scandalous waste of edible food.

Creagh, who has been MP for Wakefield since 2005, was elected to chair the cross-party EAC in February of last year, having previously held the role of Shadow Environment Secretary from 2010 to 2013.

Commenting on the award, Creagh said: “I am delighted to have been voted top of Resource’s Hot 100 list.

“From securing a ban on microbeads, holding the Treasury to account on waste and recycling, to looking at what EU membership has done for UK environmental protection, it has been a busy year for the Environmental Audit Committee.

“Looking ahead to the next year, the much-delayed 25 Year Plan for the Environment, falling recycling rates, as well as adapting to a changing climate look set to be on the agenda, but the biggest environmental issues will arise from leaving the EU, and I and my committee colleagues are determined not to let the UK return to the days when we were the ‘dirty man’ of Europe.”

Industry needs 'strong signal from government'

Speaking to Resource last year, Creagh said she wants to use her position at the head of the green watchdog “to make sure that the government doesn’t use the result of the referendum as cover to quietly drop key environmental protections”. As a keen gardener and cyclist, with some farming heritage (her grandfather was a cattle farmer in Northern Ireland), Creagh says that the environment has always been an important issue for her, especially as environmental matters and social justice go hand in hand, with the poorest “[paying] the price for environmental neglect”.

Asked to share her vision of the UK’s future environment, she said: “As we negotiate to leave the EU, we need to make sure that we have strong environmental goals enshrined in law, to provide the framework for a new green industrial revolution in sustainable technology. Industries and investors need a strong signal from government about the future direction of environmental standards and targets. The Landfill Directive has been a great example of this, but we need to make sure that we don't fall behind.”

Here’s hoping that, with Creagh at the helm, the EAC helps the government avoid just that scenario.

The Top 10

Mary Creagh named as 2016’s top waste influencer

The top 10 was announced at this year’s Kit Strange Memorial Lecture, in which number 6 Karen Cannard spoke on how recycling is presented in the media and how this has changed over the past decade.

The full list will be available on soon, and is also printed in the new issue of Resource magazine, available now.

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