The waste sector is a vital part of the country's economy, according to Lord de Mauley, Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Speaking at a Parliamentary reception for the Plastics 2020 Challenge earlier this week, he told his audience: “I'm always impressed by the plastics industry's commitment to diverting plastic waste from landfill.
"As I'm finding out now, some nine months into my job, it's easy to focus on the day-to-day issues but I don't want to lose sight of what we're trying to do in the longer term.
“A couple of weeks ago I outlined my ‘waste vision' for England; for it to be a place where substantially less waste in created in the first place and where the vast majority of what is created is reused or recycled and where whatever's left goes to energy generation. In essence, build a thriving and growing waste management industry.
There are a number of things that need to happen to achieve that, he explained. “We need manufacturers and retailers to design their products to facilitate reuse and recycling. We need companies to favour recycled materials. We need local councils to work together to help the public. And we need appropriate infrastructure with an improvement of the quality of recycled material.
“All of this is of course every bit as relevant to plastic waste as it is to waste as a whole.
He said the government's role is to set up the conditions that allow markets, businesses, local authorities and people to make the changes necessary to deliver this vision.
“The packaging recycling targets put in place last autumn are an important example of this. They set the target for the industry to respond to, driving the change we need to see.
“I know the plastics targets are ambitious; I know that there are real challenges to be overcome but I've been hugely impressed by the industry's ambitions and actions in recent months. And I recognise the efforts from across the plastics supply chain to develop an action plan.”
He called the plan “extremely positive”, adding that there are significant rewards for getting things right.
“The waste sector is growing by 3-4% a year and the recycling and recovery sector alone generated £7bn in sales in 2010-11, employs 56,000 people and contributes £3bn to the UK economy.”
(Read more of Lord de Mauley's comments in his 'Your Shout' column in the latest issue of PRW.)