Labour is unlikely to support the introduction of a nationwide approach to kerbside collection of waste packaging - particularly plastics - as called for by food and drink processors such as Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE).
Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh told Food Manufacture Labour's view was that local autonomy in waste collection and recycling was paramount. Because of the way recycling had developed historically in the UK and because of the practical difficulties in collecting from cities such as London, where there are a lot of high rise buildings, she doubted the UK could ever reach the high levels of other EU countries such as Germany.
"We obviously need to look with our colleagues across local government to see whether there could be any changes to the kerbside collections, but it would be difficult and expensive," said Creagh. "And I'm not sure that we want to tell local authorities (LAs) what they can and can't do."
In an earlier interview with Food Manufacture, CCE md Simon Baldry had called for government to introduce a more consistent approach to kerbside collection to allow the proportion of recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) used in bottles to be raised.
"There is a massive willingness from manufacturers and retailers alike to play their part in convincing consumers [to recycle more]," said Baldry. "The trouble is we do not have consistency across the 460-odd local authorities and government is not prepared to play its part in bringing a common playing field to bear."
He added: "I really do not think it is beyond the wit of us to have a common approach to kerbside collection, which we believe can work." He said this would develop the market for recycled plastics.
However, Creagh said it was for LAs to decide what worked for them, both in terms of waste collection and approaches to recycling and dealing with waste, provided it was within the overall framework of reducing waste to landfill. "We've got to get to a place where we have zero waste to landfill," she said.
However, she was highly critical of the coalition government's decision to freeze recycling targets set for 2020. "If you freeze targets you cut off demand from the industry, so there is no investment and no incentive to recycle at all," said Creagh.