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Government backtracks on recycling despite plastics pledge

The UK government is opposing bold new EU recycling targets during negotiations in Brussels, according to confidential documents.

Leaked notes from an EU delegation seen by Unearthed, Greenpeace’s investigative platform, reveal that UK officials told their counterparts the country will be unable to support an EU-wide target of recycling 65% of all municipal waste by 2035.

Diplomats from three other EU nations, speaking on condition of anonymity, agreed that UK officials had voiced opposition to the binding recycling target. One told Unearthed the UK had been “quite blunt”.

Earlier this month, Theresa May unveiled the government’s 25 -year environmental strategy, which included a promise to meet all current waste and recycling targets and to develop ambitious new ones.

“It seems that the government has been vocally backing ambitious recycling targets in Westminster while quietly opposing them in Brussels,” said Greenpeace campaigner Louise Edge.

Unearthed also obtained an internal DEFRA analysis from July 2017 estimating that increasing the UK’s recycling rate to 65% would save the waste sector billions of pounds by 2030 and could save thousands of tonnes of carbon emissions by 2100, as well as bringing about billions in social savings. The presentation also notes the UK’s recycling system would have to be substantially reformed to reach this level.