Recycling rates have stagnated at around 44% across the UK. The cold truth is that UK homes throw away 22 million tonnes of waste each year. How to address this was the challenge set before Parliamentarians and industry experts in a meeting I was glad to chair this week on behalf of the Industry and Parliament Trust. The discussion focused on whether the ambition of the Environment Bill, finding its way through Parliament at the moment, is enough to correct this problem.
Within the Bill and the Government’s Environment Strategy is the Deposit Return Scheme providing an incentive for consumers to recycle, a penalty for manufacturers who produce unnecessary plastic and a shift towards a simplified consistent waste and recycling system across England. Most households do their best to recycle but it is not always clear what can be recycled and a lack of confidence in whether items are recycled once collected from the kerbside leads to some households asking ‘why bother’. Expect to see much greater emphasis placed on recycling and waste reduction in coming months! This would be very welcome and not before time.
Members of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee (of which I am one) crossed virtual swords with the Agriculture Minister and the Immigration Minister on Tuesday as we tried to get to grips with what access to labour farmers and food producers will get next year. The Seasonal Agriculture Workers Scheme (SAWS) is currently running as a pilot of 10,000 foreign nationals. The idea is not a new one but was surplus to requirement when free movement across Europe brought tens of thousands of foreign nationals to harvest veg, fruit, ornamentals etc etc. Living where we are makes us all too aware of how critical this issue is.
The two Government Ministers set out plans to source local labour before going abroad but a domestic workforce (not used to the work or encouraged to see the benefits that can be had) will take some time to nurture. Raising the profile of these jobs (which can be both satisfying and rewarding) is definitely something the Government can lead on and I hope it does with vigour. Meanwhile we need to find the people to harvest winter vegetables and pick our daffodils now.
The one year spending review is to be announced next week. One area that has been found to be lacking during the coronavirus outbreak is easy and equitable access to diabetes technologies and devices. I chair the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Diabetes and we know that people who have diabetes are not able to access the expertise and technology that makes managing their condition much easier and safer. The APPG’s ask of the Chancellor is that he creates a dedicated diabetes technology fund to ensure that people are not barred from having the devices we know will transform their lives and futures. Two examples of these are flash glucose monitoring devices and insulin pumps. Both are proven technologies, vital in managing diabetes (especially Type 1) available on the NHS but not readily available to patients.