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General Election 2017: what might it mean for recycling?

26th May 2017

Following Theresa May’s unexpected call for a general election to take place in June 2017, the party manifestos for both major UK parties were released last week. These manifestos cover a huge range of issues affecting the UK, and one key issue of concern here at ecoVeritas is recycling and the environment. Polling suggests that Theresa May will continue in her role as Prime Minister after the 9th June, but what implications may this, and alternative outcomes, have upon recycling in the UK?

The Conservative Party manifesto makes little reference to environmental issues. There is brief reference throughout the document to having control over environmental legislation once the country has left the EU, but what the results of this control may be remains a mystery. The Tories have pledged to publish a 25 Year Environmental Plan for how the environment will be improved following the country’s exit of the EU, but have not elucidated any further detail about this plan. Perhaps the increases in recycling targets released in the last budget will be continued and are representative of May’s attitude towards environmental issues, but there is little to suggest that this will be the case.

The Labour Party manifesto does feature some efforts to reduce the impact of human activity on the environment. The “Environment” section, along with relevant pledges and commitments, is located within a broader section titled “Leading Richer Lives”, and thus seems an insufficient priority to justify a section title itself. Indeed, the forward signed by party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, makes no reference at all to the environment. Despite this, one significant pledge for recycling and waste management is the setting of targets for plastic bottle deposit schemes. Such schemes are in place in several countries in the EU, as well as in many North American states. The party manifesto also makes references to “stewardship of the environment”, although this seems to only reference farming and fisheries.

Although it is unlikely that the election will not be won by Labour or the Conservatives, there is support for environmental issues within other manifestos. In a section titled “Environment”, the Liberal Democrats have pledged to raise recycling targets to 70%, as well as extending food waste collection to cover 90% of the UK. They also aim to introduce a 5p charge for single-use coffee cups. How much scope the Liberal Democrats are granted to express these pledges remains to be seen. Similarly, the Green party has pledged the introduction of zero waste targets and the introduction of deposit return schemes, but the mandate to act upon this and campaign for environmental issues is not likely to extend beyond one Member of Parliament. Similarly, the Scottish National Party website suggests some consideration of environmental issues, but the degree to which the SNP voice on this issue may be significant in Westminster will become clear after the election.

This post hasn’t considered the devolved powers in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, focusing instead on the Westminster parliament. Environmental issues barely feature in the election campaigns of the Conservative and Labour parties, and given this it seems unlikely that discourse surrounding the election will touch on these issues. It is unclear whether this means the continuation of “business as usual” or whether environmental issues will recede from the political agenda. Either outlook is not the most exciting or promising prospect for those concerned with environmental issues.