Osborne 'ignoring green economy', say recyclers

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The Chancellor of the Exchequer has missed a trick by not doing more to support the green economy in his Autumn Statement earlier this week, industry figures argue.

Steve Lee, the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management’s chief executive, said he was “disappointed to see the green economy so poorly supported” in George Osborne’s pronouncements.

“Waste and resource management has an essential role to play in delivering a sustainable, low carbon future, but the green economy got the cold shoulder from the Chancellor,” he added.

Lee said that while the cuts to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) budget over the next two years were both expected and turned out to be less severe that some had predicted, the CIWM “remained concerned about the resourcing and strength of Defra as the lead department on sustainable waste and resource management”.

“Our sector has a key role to play in underpinning green growth by helping UK plc to become more resource efficient and competitive, and we need a government department that is capable of delivering strategic leadership and robust and timely policies to support this.

“CIWM is also concerned that the Chancellor’s dedication to gas for the foreseeable future throws additional doubt on this government’s real commitment to developing renewable energy capacity, including energy from waste in all its forms, and decarbonising the UK’s energy supply.”

His comments were echoed by Chris Dow, chief executive of plastics recycler Closed Loop Recycling.

“I welcome the Chancellor’s announcements which aim to support small and medium sized businesses such as ours.”

“But what about the UK’s green economy? Have we parked carbon intensity targets for the Energy Bill? Does an eight-year austerity programme mean the Green Investment Bank is unable to raise funds and therefore slow our path to sustainable energy production?”

Dow said green industrial activity should be seen as an opportunity for job growth and industry reform rather than being treated as an economic cost, urged the government to send the “right signals” to businesses like Closed Loop and called – again – for the current PRN system to be looked at.

“We call on the whole industry to work together to help the UK’s domestic recycling industry achieve Defra’s new recycling targets.

"The government has presented us with an enormous opportunity that needs to be embraced right across the sector to ensure that we realise the goals of a robust and strong recycling sector.”

Meanwhile Philip Law, public and industrial affairs director at the British Plastics Federation (BPF), said: "The 'Green Economy' is a much abused term, particularly by government.

"It's not easy to define and some headline initiatives such as 'The Green Deal' have met with a very mixed response, as have some of the so-called 'green energy' projects, such as wind power. Perhaps the Chancellor is learning to stay away from vacuous labels."