The EU wants to recycle 65% of the waste that is generated in towns and cities by the year 2035. You might imagine that the UK government, which has launched a 25-year plan for the environment, would applaud the EU’s target.
But you’d be wrong. Although the prime minister has stressed the need to cut plastic pollution, the UK has voiced its opposition to the EU’s proposals. The UK won’t support the target, or indeed, the overall agreement. This is despite the fact that UK environment officials reckon that billions of pounds of benefits would accrue from meeting the targets. These savings would come from the waste sector, social costs and greenhouse gas costs.
Recycling rates not meeting their targets
So it would seem that the government is happy to talk the talk but less prepared to walk the walk. Meanwhile, recycling rates are static and the UK is not going to meet its national targets. The country is meant to meet the target of 50% recycling by next year. But targets backed in Westminster don’t seem to be backed by the government when it is talking to Europe. The shadow environment secretary, Sue Hayman, has called on Michael Gove to make the government’s position clear as soon as possible.
The apparent contradiction has also led to the government being called hypocritical. The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) didn’t make matters a lot clearer when it said that government would decide on how it would vote after it had made a detailed scrutiny of the proposals.
Government argues that weight is wrong criteria for recycling targets
It’s certainly true that the government has implemented a great deal of environmental regulation. Rules around work such as tank decommissioning http://www.ashremediation.co.uk/tank-decommissioning/ now ensure that toxic chemicals and fuels are properly dealt with, and these projects take place with due care for the environment.
However, recycling remains an area of underachievement. The government has argued that recycling must reflect the environmental impact of different materials, and that since the EU targets prioritise weight, they could result in “perverse outcomes” such as garden waste being more of a target than plastic.
Environmental activists are not convinced and are watching to see what the government’s final response will be.
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