Idea 15: Taking a global lead on the 'circular economy' and committing to zero waste going to landfill by 2030

The tree on the logo is soon to be chopped down and burned, the land it stands on tracked and the huskies are running away from the man who hugged them - the Conservatives have gone from wanting to be 'the greenest government ever' to completely vacated the environmental centre-ground. 

Labour must seize the opportunity to be bold on the environment - either trumping the Lib Dems and Greens with our proposals or pushing those parties to the fruitcake fringes as they attempt to keep up their environmental credentials even if it costs their credibility. 

We should set a bold target of abolishing landfill by 2030. Germany has already achieved this with a 65% recycling rate and 35% going to incineration. We should aim to at least hit 75% recycling rate but ideally more with the rest going to energy from waste solutions. 

Currently a third of food waste goes to landfill. We need to introduce measures to reduce food waste in the first instance, this will include restrictions on supermarkets and restaurant practices but also better food education in schools (and probably a national marketing campaign led by celebrities) to raise awareness of ways to reduce food waste. It will also require all households - including flats - to recycle their food waste or self-compost with fines for those who don't, which in turn will require councils to send this food waste to anaerobic digestion plants which can produce energy or fertiliser for farming. 

The Government should also make a national push for the UK to take a global lead on the 'circular economy' - in other words getting our manufacturers to utilise recycled materials much more. Last year the cross-party House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee called for the Government to legislate to restrict the use of un-recycleable products in manufacturing processes - they suggested the timetable could be set out well in advance to allow businesses to prepare and invest in new designs and for university scientists to help research new uses for materials which can keep costs down whilst making the products recyclable. This is legislators putting faith in the ingenuity of our businesses and scientists to resolve challenges - the law can always be repealed if no such innovation comes forth. The Government could play its part by setting up a Catapult Centre (centres for university-business collaboration on potential growth technologies) focused on 'circular design'. 

We should also be arguing the case at a EU-level to get similar rules applied across the EU area and indeed restrictions on importing goods without those standards which would really speed up the move to more recyclable materials being used in places like Far East Asia and India who would see their export-based economies dry up if they couldn't access the European single market. 

The quick wins with recycling are nearly all achieved. Wales leads the way on recycling and any future Labour government should highlight that fact and take their lead on raising our recycling rate in England to a similar level but beyond that its going to take tougher restrictions, collaboration between central Government, local government, businesses and consumers as well as investment in innovation. Yet the environmental necessity and economic benefits of dealing with waste more effectively demand Labour takes action - especially if the Tories can't be bothered.