What have the manifestos taught us?


Last week saw the publication of election manifestos from some of the major political parties. What did we learn about their policies on recycling and the circular economy from the three main parties that are standing across Great Britain? Not much on the whole! 

In order of publication, the Liberal Democrats promised to “get Britain recycling” although they also want to ban plastic exports by 2030. They cryptically said they wanted to include food containers in a deposit return scheme, without explaining how this might work. 


The party would also like to work with devolved nations to have consistent collections across the UK.  

In its manifesto, the Liberal Democrats said the party would: “Cut resource use, waste and pollution by accelerating the transition to a more circular economy that maximises the recovery, reuse, recycling and remanufacturing of products. 

“This will cut costs for consumers and businesses, reduce exposure to volatile commodity prices, protect the environment and create new jobs and enterprises.” 

Next to publish were the Conservatives who promised to “develop a UK-wide deposit return scheme while working to minimise the impact on businesses and consumers”. Although in Government it promised to implement this by 2027, the manifesto did not commit to a timescale. 

The Conservative party also promised to crack down on waste crime. Strangely they said they would revoke permit approvals for new energy-from-waste plants unless there had been substantial construction already. This is because there was more recycling taking place despite generally flatlining recycling rates. 

Finally, Labour launched its manifesto on Thursday and it had one whole line on this area of policy: “Labour is committed to reducing waste by moving to a circular economy.” 

This vague sentence doesn’t give us much idea on future policy from a future Labour Government. 

But my take is that the policy thrust of whoever wins the election will be broadly similar to what has gone before in the form of extended producer responsibility, a form of consistent collections (possibly Simpler Recycling still in England) and the introduction of an unnecessary deposit return scheme.  

The work on all of this has already been done by Defra and the devolved Governments and it isn’t hugely party political. We might see some adjustment, especially from a new Environment Secretary, but I can’t imagine there will be huge changes and starting all over again.  

But the manifestos are so vague that I could be wrong and a new Government of whatever colour could start afresh.