EXCLUSIVE: Critics left deflated by Labour’s waste review

Sustainability professionals have expressed disappointment over the Labour Party's newly-launched resource security policy review, calling it a "hurried" blueprint, let down by "old-fashioned thinking".

The eight-page document, published last Friday, sets out the party’s stance on driving forward green economic growth from the waste and resource management sector.

Despite the paper winning broad support from the industry’s trade associations, more independent observers have felt frustrated by its lack of bite and detail.

Sustainability advisor Tom Curtis told edie that the approach taken by Labour on what are highly topics issues was far too simplistic and “disappointingly old-fashioned”.

“I know that it’s a waste review, but considering waste as a separate issue is part of the problem – have they not looked at the systems thinking of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation for example?” he questioned.

He added: “They mention raw materials as if an ethical responsibility, whereas the smarter thinking is to re-interpret environmental impacts from raw materials as supply chain risks and issues of competitiveness.”

Curtis’ comments were echoed by Mark Bradbury, managing director of low carbon consultancy Vertical Thinking, who said the review “unfortunately has the air of a hurriedly prepared cut and paste job with too much repetition and not enough innovation”.

“Its authors should be aware that the waste hierarchy wasn’t designed for policy, this is one area where reuse or recycle doesn’t cut it, but instead some clear thinking and virgin material needs adding to the debate,” he told edie.

Bradbury said he was concerned that the tone of the document appeared to over-emphasis target setting – in isolation targets will not deliver the joined-up approach that is needed, he argued.

Meanwhile Simon Drury, principal technical consultant for waste and resource efficiency at Ricardo-AEA told edie that the paper appeared to offer “little that is new” but did welcome Labour’s acknowledgement that the waste sector has a role to play in supporting general economic growth.

“The role that cleaner design and driving greater recovery has to play in the Labour vision is good to see, as is the intended review of the role government procurement could play in supporting a more circular economy,” he said.

However Drury added that the review didn’t really touch upon the need for leaner operational practices across the service sector, or the role that government could play in supporting the efficient recovery of scarce and rare earth elements.

“Will [Labour] be a game changing force on this agenda or will they leave the momentum to business and the third sector? There are no real answers here, so only time will tell,” he said.

Maxine Perella

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