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Phil Taylor

This proposal flies in the face of local democracy. Yes, there are differences across boroughs. Fine. Let a thousand flowers bloom.

That said, pressure does need to be applied to councils to steadily improve recycling rates. The EU is providing some of this even if some Tories grind their teeth at the thought. There may be some scope for very high level target setting that leaves room for a range of different responses.

Ultimately, the public's enthusiasm for this should provide the pressure. In my borough there are very few people nowadays who will speak against the recycling consensus. Our leader didn't come up with Vote Blue, Go Green because he is thick!

Angelo Basu

The environment is a national and international issue so it doesn't appear to be necessarily inconsistent with the general policy aim of encouraging more local decision-making and less centralisation to propose something like this.

DC seems to be very pro-environment and this is a positive step in winning support from those who would otherwise caricature the Tories as the party of complete laissez-faire attitudes. With services which have immediate local effects, such as health and education, it makes sense to wish to encourage real decision-making at the local level. Environmental issues do have some immediate local effects (eg in relation to land-fill and the location of recycling centres) but the big effects and the big issues which motivate the need for environmental action are much wider and more long term. Local variation in fixing such wider issues is positively harmful- even variation on a national basis can damage the overall project as the US approach to Kyoto suggests, but doing things on a national basis is an essential first step towards setting the international standard. At the very least it helps to work towards keeping this land green and pleasant.


More central diktat.
Completely wrong.


I am simply amazed at the amount of "reinventing the wheel" that goes on at local council level. I do not favour mandation but learning from best practice should be the first step in developing a local policy.

Mark Wadsworth


It has taken the Germans twenty years to get where they are - despite the caveat about ccentral diktats, this was what it took - and the sooner we start the better.

As ever, tax should be used as a stick where carrots fail, surely it cannot be beyond the wit of man to significantly increase the charges for landfill, encouraging local councils to move to recycling or incineration (which can generate relatively clean energy, if you do it properly).

Simon Mallett

Will the policy apply to unwanted trees?

Denis Cooper

Having been brought up by a mother who would never walk past a piece of string or coal spilled by the coalmen without picking it up and taking it home, and a father who would hoard every scrap of timber for possible future use, this is all deeply imbedded in my psyche. But what is not deeply imbedded in my psyche is being told what to do about it by the EU, especially when it is acting on behalf of the Germans who as I recall left quite a mess behind them right across Europe and on the high seas on two occasions during the last century.

What kind of "national policy" can there be on this, or anything else, if we allow the EU to tell us what that policy will be? Christopher Booker has had a lot to say about this, see eg "How our waste system was turned to rubbish":


I'm voting "no" to this proposal, not because I'm careless about our environment, but because I wouldn't want to contribute to the entirely false impression that we can have a national policy while we remain under the thumb of Brussels.

David Simpson

I generally prefer the Darwinian approach - if Scarborough's system is so self evidently bad and Woking's so good, what's to stop Scarborough's voters making their council follow the Woking system?

Nevertheless, national guidelines - number and colour and collection frequency of wheely bins, for example - seem sensible.

Oh and by the way landfill tax is being increased all the time - you can see the results in our hedgerows!

Mark Wadsworth

David Simpson - agreed, if you charge people directly for disposing waste you end up with fly tipping. Thus, for practical reasons, councils shouldn't make a direct charge for picking up rubbish. I was talking about the price that the council pays for landfill. It's a cultural thing really, all this recycling, it's impossible to enforce it if people can't be bothered, like not dropping litter.

Mark Fulford

Conservatives should be federalist in the sense that we should take decisions at the most local level possible. I agree with Dominic that recycling is a national issue because the consequences of failing to recycle properly are also national (at least).

But in the Conservative spirit of letting a thousand flowers bloom, central government should not rigidly dictate methods. Instead it should set a minimum standard and a way of meeting that standard. Whether the local council then follows the government’s suggested method or invents its own is a local choice.

Angelo Basu

It strikes me as a bit of UKIP-like cutting off our noses to spite our faces to take the approach of rejecting national policies where there is EU competence.

If you want us to remove EU competence that is one thing, but while that is not a policy of the Party it seems odd to decline to take national measures within the scope of what it is possible do while remaining consistent with the wider EU framework.

If the desired national policy would be at odds with what is the current EU legal position, then fine, that is a good argument for saying that the EU is wrongly constraining our ability to act. Refusing to act until the EU ceases to have any role in an area of policy may be a Cnut-like way of demonstrating our powerlessness in the face of the wider 25 state system, but hardly a platform for offering meaningful change in the world as it is (and will remain until we merge with UKIP).

Denis Cooper

It would be nothing more than a deliberate deceit practised upon the electorate for a party to pretend that it has created its own national policy, when in reality that policy can be no more than a re-expression and re-labelling of a policy imposed by the EU, while remaining silent about the imposition of that policy by the EU.

Angelo Basu

If a local authority can have a policy for implementing national law, surely a nation can have a policy for implementing an international law? Yes, the UK is unable to do less than the relevant EU regulations but it can do more if it wants to and it can choose how to do what it wants to do, albeit subject to constraints.

I don't think that the majority of the public understands or gives two hoots about the niceties of Parliamentary Sovereignty and whether the European Communities Act gave it away. Perhaps it is collective self-delusion but the principled stance you imply would basically leave us with being a largely policy-free zone other than a commitment to leaving the EU. That doesn't win elections for UKIP and it won't for the Tories (unless we have a referendum on the euro and this can be used to debate participation in the EU generally).

Denis Cooper

The question is whether you want to govern, or just pretend to govern.

Angelo Basu

At the moment the choice appears then to be between appearing to govern and definitely not being anywhere near governing at all!


"That said, pressure does need to be applied to councils to steadily improve recycling rates."

The result of this for my local council has been the adoption of an unpopular scheme that results in collections every two weeks, maggots in bins and local councillors refusing to give in to pressure to return to the old system.

Vic Tory

What a wonderful idea. Recycling all the different colour bins and boxes will help push up the recycling rate. Bring on uniformity!

Wat Tyler

I live in Woking, and I've never been at all clear why Woking Council is held up as a green paragon. Actually, they only introduced recycling collections in March this year, and even now they only recycle certain items (for an altogether different view of Woking see http://www.chavtowns.co.uk/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=321 )

And Denis is right about the EU role here- according to the recent NAO report, if we fail to meet the EU targets for reducing landfill we could be fined £180m pa.

But with the best will in the world, recycling will not get us down to European levels. Not only will we need to compost more (Germany composts 5 times as much), but we will also need to incinerate more. MUCH more. And the last attempt to build a waste to energy plant round here resulted in a peasants revolt.

As for Dominic's policy proposal, I think there's a lot to be said for national colour coding guidelines, but like others I don't want to see it mandated. We should be seeking to decentralise as fast as we can.

John Peters

I agree national government should guide, support and inform, but this policy seems too much like central interference to me. The way to get best practice is to let different councils try different methods.
I'm going to vote no.


I'm not sure that the basic premise - that all areas should have identical recycling schemes and recycling rates - makes any sense. Why? Councils have plenty of policies acting upon them already with recycling targets, a landfill tax that goes up every year, and a trading scheme. Are centrally enforced procedures needed to deal with the trauma of getting to grips with a different waste collection system when you move house?

There is though a need for good ideas around waste policy, this just isn't one of them.


Wat Tyler is spot on - although he comes to the wrong conclusion. The answer here is proper modern waste-to-energy systems that burn non-recyclable stuff - these are very different from the old smokey incinerators and also have the added benefits of generating very low carbon electricity and heat.

The area where we do need some national leadership is on fineing people who don't seperate their recyclables. So long as the actual collection remains free this won't encourage fly tipping, but will increase recycling rates. As it is, many councils are too worried about the PR implications to address this themselves.

Government could also look at the current ridiculous situation in rural areas where one council is responsible for collecting rubbish and another for getting rid of it - an arrangement which wastes substantial amounts of taxpayers cash.

That said, the idea of a centralised, Government run, policy is not a good one. The Government is not going to be able to do a decent job of a task this big if it tries to run things directly - surely this is basic Conservatism? It can show leadership, resolve legislative issues and help councils with PR issues certainly - but the idea they are capable of running the whole show is a non-starter.

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