George Osborne – be very afraid

This Tuesday George Osborne gave speech at Imperial College London this week, explaining how the Conservatives are going to spearhead the green revolution with a recycling reward scheme. It’s complete madness, although Telegraph columnists seem to like it – or more likely aren’t clued up enough to see the problem.

Apparently he’ll cut carbon emissions by 10% within a year. Great! But how? He doesn’t say, but I’m sure we’ll all be interested to learn in good time. However, the incredible recycling plans that followed don’t exactly encourage me to believe he’s got any good ideas.

“Carrots work better than sticks. Instead of punishing people, as Labour do with bin taxes, the Conservatives want to encourage families by paying them to recycle.

This isn’t an idle promise – we’re actually making it happen on the ground in Conservative areas. Now we want to make it happen everywhere.”

Apparently they’re going to reward recycling households with vouchers to spend at, wait for it, Tesco and Marks and Spencer! One of the best ways I can think of to cut down non-recyclable domestic refuse is to close down M+S, who were easily the worst offenders when it came to stupid packaging (see blogs passim).

But it gets worse. Apparently they’re going to make this work with some new miraculous technology. Dustcarts will be fitted with a gizmo that scans the contents of the recycling bin, works out the address the items came from and allocates “recycling points” to your account in a special database. Methinks he’s been watching too much Star Trek. Why don’t politicians ever bother talking to engineers before opening their mouths and spouting such fantastic nonsense?

Incidentally, if you’re not an engineer, fair enough – but take it from me that this will never work as described.

However, whether it works or not, they’re spectacularly missing the point. Recycling isn’t the answer. They should be looking at ways for reducing waste in the first place, and there’s precious little evidence of that. In fact this encourages even more waste by rewarding people to manage to fill their recycling bin with £130. It’s potty! Anyone taking the incentive seriously might, for example, switch to disposable plates and cutlery just to ensure their bin is always topped up.

So who’s responsible for this nonsense? Well apparently the Conservatives now have Tesco, BT and B+Q (part of Kingfisher) on board as advisers on environmental issues. Need I say more?

Meanwhile Labour Health Secretary Andy Burnham launched a report saying we should cut down on livestock rearing and meat consumption to save greenhouse gasses and improve people’s health. Now Labour has the skids under them they’re talking sense, although I doubt they’d be so candid if they thought they’d actually ever have to sell the idea to the farming industry or those hooked on eating cheap meat.

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