Speaking at the official launch of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management’s (CIWM) circular economy report in Westminster (4 November), Lord Deben (also known as John Gummer) said that the UK will only “succeed” in tackling environmental challenges if it works on a “European level”.

Level playing field

He said: “If you want to have a level playing field to fight the battles (environmental) that we have to, then you have to do this with your neighbours.

“The idea that we can operate on our own is a 19th Century idea when we had a lot of gunboats. We don’t have gunboats now.

“If we don’t get on with our neighbours then we will not be able to get on with things in this country. There is no area more clear about that than the environment.

“Half the air pollution we produce goes to the rest of Europe and half the air pollution we have comes from the rest of Europe. So, how do deal with air pollution if you don’t do it on a European basis? If you do not do this you are in trouble.”

Speaking about waste policy, Lord Deben also said that Wales, England, Northern Ireland and Scotland could be learning from each other’s policies on tackling waste and sharing best practice.

He said that the different waste policies “were a real mix” and “we ought to be using it much more effectively”.

“But it would be absolutely no use unless we play a proper part in the European Union and I am absolutely unashamed about this,” he added.

He said: “It’s like our beaches. If you think you can clean up our beaches without other people cleaning up their beaches the other side of the North Sea you don’t know how the water runs.”

He said that environmental action on a “European level” was the “right one”.

‘Doing new things’

Elsewhere, Lord Deben said he was disappointed by the speech Resource Minister Dan Rogerson gave at a CIWM conference in June when Rogerson warned that a “fully circular economy” could be unachievable.

He said: “We need imagination. I think that’s the thing that is in short supply – imagination. There are a lot of very boring people who prefer to do now what they did yesterday because it is safer. You know in your industry how often that is true.

“It’s not because it’s the best and it’s not because they have tried something different – it is because it is safer. Doing new things and testing new things is going to be hugely important.”

The CIWM recently unveiled its report entitled Circular Economy what it means to the waste and resource management sector?’ written by resource management specialists Ray Georgeson and Dr Jane Beasley.

A key finding from the report showed that the resource management sector had embraced the circular economy.

CIWM president John Quinn said that the circular economy was one of the “most exiting” trends that will shape the future of the resource management industry and the sector needed to grasp it “with both hands”.

Speaking about the report, Lord Deben said: “CIWM has a huge advantage in this because you are able to set the tone and take the lead. What you have done with the circular economy will be of interest to others in the European Union. The more you can spread the word, the more likely you are to get a response.”

Liz Gyekye

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