What can UKIP offer waste management?

Written by: Geraldine Faulkner | Published:
Special Report

With two members of parliament, former Conservative MPs Mark Reckless and Douglas Carswell, now sitting in the House of Commons, it looks as if the UK Independence Party (UKIP) has already got its 2015 general election campaign off to a promising start. Geraldine Faulkner speaks to UKIP’s spokesperson for the environment to find out what plans the party has for the waste management sector.

UKIP's stock appears to be flying high at the moment, particularly with the party's leader, Nigel Farage predicting his party could hold the balance of power after May's general election.

But what about other spokespersons in UKIP, such as the party's spokesman for the environment, multi-millionaire Andrew Lambrou Charalambous who has been entrusted with both the portfolio for housing along with the environment which includes waste management? What has he got to say about issues that are of concern to the waste management industry?

RWW caught up with Charalambous in Islington to find out what plans UKIP has for the sector.

He starts off by saying there is "an overlap of ideas in recycling" with Defra clearly wanting to take the lead. "The whole system in the UK has become very muddled and very complicated," says Charalambous shaking his head before adding: "We need to have a look at the whole system and how products are used in order to actualise the idea of zero waste with the emphasis on reusing energy and incineration as a last resort. Defra is proving to be a bit ineffective, in fact, it has proved to be stagnant, so I would be inclined to give the waste portfolio to the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)."

The property developer/landlord, who is reported to own over a thousand residential properties, goes on to point out: "We need to give people clearly defined responsibilities and leadership has to come from local authorities. They are the ones who can assess what is needed; waste management works best locally as it's only the local bodies who can monitor the situation."

This will no doubt strike a chord with organisations such as the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) who would like to see local authorities be given more powers from central government.

Incentivisation

Another concept that is espoused by Charalambous is that of incentivisation. "If you want waste management to work, you need to give people incentives. Why couldn't we work out that if you recycle so much, take that off your council tax bill? We need to give people practical incentives; there are some people who have no idea of the impact of recycling on the quality of life. We need better waste control so that we have a society that is ultimately sustainable."

The UKIP environment spokesperson, also known as 'Dr Earth', is no stranger to sustainability. In July 2008, he launched what was claimed to be the world's first ecological night club, Club Surya (Surya being the Sanskrit term for the Sun God) on Pentonville Road, Islington, London with a piezoelectric dance-floor that included technology whereby the dancing motion of clubbers could generate part of the club's energy requirements. Charalambous says the dance-floor had to be removed to create more space. "I am proud to have used the technology; it opened new avenues for green technology," he adds. The club owner also launched Club4Climate, an eco initiative designed to get young people involved in tackling environmental issues.

Today, he is more concerned about how little recycled glass is collected from night clubs, bars, pubs and music venues all over the UK. "If you look at the facts you will see just how much bottled waste is discarded which had the potential to be recycled."

Returning to the subject of incentivising residents to recycle, Charalambous believes there could be a place for RFID (radio frequency identification). When reminded that this has historically gone down badly with residents, he brushes away any potential objections: "So that people don't think they are being 'spied on', you explain the benefits of the system so that you offer them the opportunity to go down that route."

[Subhead] Waste prevention

He stresses that when it comes to waste prevention: "UKIP will redirect the emphasis from end waste management to waste prevention. Zero waste encompasses more than eliminating waste through recycling and reuse, it focuses on restructuring production and distribution systems to reduce waste.

"We will provide incentives for companies to minimise packaging, and where possible to reuse and recycle traditional materials. In so doing, we will target the reduction of household waste, and ultimately environmental pollution."

The entrepreneur, who says he hasn't made his mind up yet whether to stand as an MP in the May election, says he has "lots of other things to take up my time. It is still possible".

It will not be the first time Charalambous has attempted to become an MP. In 1992, he stood for the conservatives as the youngest candidate of any main party in the general election. He was 22 years old at the time. In 2010, he tried again, but this time in Edmonton where he came second. A few months later, he left the Conservatives and joined UKIP where he fought a by-election in Feltham.

Weekly waste collections

While UKIP's spokesman for housing and the environment might have left the Tory party three years ago, he shares the same point of view as Eric Pickles, secretary of state for communities and local government, when it comes to weekly waste collections.

"UKIP will return to weekly dustbin rounds, and do away with the present fortnightly system. In fact, we will impose new legislative duties of care on local authorities towards their residents. Our 'Clean Streets Initiative' will mean that government inspectors will have the authority to monitor and fine local councils where levels of street cleanliness fall below standard," emphasises the entrepreneur.

"The reality is that many more UK properties are occupied by multiple residents. Particularly, in inner city communities which have been altered radically by the recent waves of immigration. It is therefore logical that more waste is being generated per building. To counter this we will make it incumbent on councils to provide at least one dustbin per three residents. Unfortunately, it is often too easy to spot houses in multiple occupation by the amount of untidy refuse in the front garden. Our waste management strategy must reflect new demographic densities."

The bigger picture

Turning to the 'bigger picture' of sustainability, Charalambous expresses concern over the "13 million hectares of rain forest that is disappearing every year. We are barbarically desecrating nature and the environment. We only have 12% forest coverage left in the UK. We must increase it. To this end, we want to introduce active policies to regenerate forests in the first five years of government, and there's no reason why we shouldn't increase it by 2% in five years China has increased theirs by 4% I think in five years."

And one of the ways is for the UK government to take more of a lead in recycling, suggests the businessman. "The way to present it should be more exciting, namely, we are using our resources and thinking of our future generation. You have to make people more excited about recycling and the way to do this is to explain its advantages. What are the benefits? This is what we were pushing when Club4Climate was launched."

The entrepreneur emphasises there needs to be more value placed on recycled products. "I am a massive fan of refuse derived fuel staying within the UK. It makes no economic or moral sense to pump stuff to other parts of the world. We can't carry on being such a throwaway society where basically half the world has most of the wealth while the other half starves."

Gathering momentum, Charalambous adds: "There's another point, there are currently 7.2bn people on the planet and in 10 years' time it is expected to be 10bn. We have no choice; we have to learn. There has to be a connection to the real world, for instance, we are the only political party who is taking a stand against the proposed HS2 project. HS2 will be a disaster for the environment"

He pauses before adding: "Not everything is dictated by political parties. We need more free thinking politicians: fewer ivory tower politicians who are not connected to the ordinary person. There is a massive gulf between the challenges faced by career politicians and the British public. I'm proud to say the impetus is coming from UKIP. There is too much inertia in the UK today."


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