General Election 2017 - What The Manifestos Say about Reuse & The Circular Economy

It’s election time so I thought it might be interesting to have a look at what the main English parties are saying about packaging, waste & the circular economy. On the basis that very few of us have the time (or will) to read the entire manifestos of each party, I’ve pulled out the relevant info but feel free to click on the links if you want to read on. I make no apology for bias (or sarcasm) in my commentary but I promise the statements are unedited from each party’s manifesto!


The Greens are obviously first out of the blocks with their commitment to tackling plastic waste and promoting a culture of reusing and refilling:

“In the UK, 35 million plastic bottles are bought every day – that’s 200 per person every year – and 44% of these are not recycled. This means 16 million plastic bottles every day end up in our environment, whether sent to landfill, incinerated or simply dumped in the countryside, parks, streets or beaches. The Green Party would promote the culture of reusing and refilling, through: the introduction of a bottle deposit scheme; free public water dispensers and a community refill scheme; and an end to unnecessary single-use plastics. Tackling plastic waste sits alongside our long-standing commitment to creating a more circular economy - where recycling and reusing materials become central to our way of life”


Unexpectedly, the Lib Dems’ manifesto also makes explicit reference to the circular economy, (although I’m not sure why it’s the “so-called” circular economy?!) I’m reproducing it in full below because it’s very comprehensive:

Britain’s economy fails to make the most efficient use of natural resources. We aim to cut waste, increase recovery, reuse and recycling and move towards the so-called ‘circular economy’ in which resource use, waste and pollution are minimised and product lifetimes are extended. This will cut costs for consumers and businesses and create new jobs and enterprises, helping to grow Britain’s economy. We will:

  • Pass a Zero Waste Act, including legally-binding targets for reducing net consumption of key natural resources, and introducing incentives for businesses to improve resource efficiency.
  • Benefit consumers by promoting better product design to improve repairability, reuse and recycling.
  • Establish a statutory waste recycling target of 70% in England and extend separate food waste collections to at least 90% of homes by 2022.
  • Building on the success of our plastic bag charge, introduce a 5p charge on disposable coffee cups to reduce waste.
  • Establish a coherent tax and regulatory framework for landfill, incineration and waste collection, including reinstating the Landfill Tax escalator and extending it to the lower rate and consulting on the introduction of an Incineration Tax.
  • Work with local government to ensure these commitments are fully-funded.

To ensure the policies set out in this chapter are implemented, and to put the protection of the environment at the heart of policies across all areas of government, we will establish a Cabinet Committee on Sustainability, chaired by a cabinet minister, establish an Office for Environmental Responsibility to scrutinise the government’s efforts to meets its environmental targets, and place a responsibility on every government agency to account for its contribution towards meeting climate targets in everything it does.”


The Labour Party seem to be focusing a lot on agriculture, clean air and environmental legislation which is presumably a reference to ensuring we maintain similar levels of environmental protection when we leave the EU. There is a reference to “guiding targets” for plastic bottle deposit schemes but I’m not sure what that really means:

Labour will introduce a new Clean Air Act to deal with the Conservative legacy of illegal air quality. We will safeguard habitats and species in the ‘blue belts’ of the seas and oceans surrounding our island. We will set guiding targets for plastic bottle deposit schemes, working with food manufacturers and retailers to reduce waste”


The Conservatives have taken a different approach, including their environmental policy within an overall focus on community. They do mention “supporting better packaging” but I find it hard to reconcile their lack of detail with this insistence that they’re going to be “the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it” – just because you repeat something often enough, it doesn’t make it true!

We have seen welcome growth and civic renewal in some major cities. Our towns and cities should be healthy, well-designed and well-tended places... We will do more to reduce litter, including by supporting comprehensive rubbish collection and recycling, supporting better packaging, taking new powers to force councils to remove roadside litter and prosecuting offenders. We will do more to improve the quality of road surfaces, filling potholes – especially in residential areas – and reducing road noise. Finally, we pledge to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it. That is why we shall produce a comprehensive 25 Year Environment Plan that will chart how we will improve our environment as we leave the European Union and take control of our environmental legislation again”

And finally, I had the pleasure of reading UKIP’s 2017 manifesto, not holding out much hope but *shock horror* there it was - not only a reference to polling day falling on the same day as World Oceans Day but a pledge to investigate the introduction of a deposit return scheme on plastic bottles. Alas it’s not enough for me to balance out the extreme negativity/ racism of the rest of their pledges and for that reason I’m not quoting them or putting a link to their site. But I will applaud this small inclusion.

So, what have we learnt? The party most likely to win has the least amount of detail and thinks that “strong and stable” statements are enough – well they’re not… The Greens are taking it a level up and talking about a “culture” of refilling and reuse, which is certainly where our hearts lie… Labour need to pull their socks up and get with the Circular Economy programme. The Lib Dems have great ideas, backed up with proper detail for which they should be applauded. And even UKIP are in on the DRS act. In fact, that seems to be the main thing we’ve learnt. The focus is, by and large, on water bottles and whether a Deposit Return Scheme could be introduced to tackle the insane amount of single use plastics we throw away as a country, so industry beware, change is coming.