I VOTED to stay in the EU because I worried the Westminster Tory government wanted to avoid legal controls concerning protection of the environment – as well as human rights, working conditions and health and safety. The UK Government strongly opposed new EU recycling targets.

The government pledge of a “world-leading” and independent environmental watchdog conveniently overlooks the fact that they only recently disbanded the Sustainable Development Commission (an independent environmental watchdog!) as part of their bonfire of quangos drama.

The recycling target of 70 per cent by 2030 for urban waste sought by the European Parliament has now been reduced to 65 per cent and the timescale extended to 2035, presumably influenced to some extent by the UK’s opposition. Yet despite this reduction, a government statement has said: “The UK Government cannot support a binding target of 65 per cent for 2035”.

The government’s 25-year environment plan to develop “ambitious new future targets and milestones”, which was launched by Theresa May in a desperate attempt to attract younger voters, is without any tangible plan or policy on recycling. Well she did consider “leading the way” with a 5p plastic bag charge for smaller shops (as already applies in Scotland and Wales) and promised the government would “reflect on” ideas such as a mandatory charge for takeaway coffee cups. Ambitious targets?

I was recently in Copenhagen, where they have built an incinerator right in the city centre confident of no smell, noise or toxic emissions. This huge building has been designed with a distinctive sloping roof which provides an artificial ski slope for year-round use and has grassed picnic areas with views over the city. I was told these amenities have proved popular and are free to residents. There is also an 80-metre high climbing wall and other recreational facilities within the building.

The combined heat and power plant is designed to use 400,000 tons of waste a year, which will provide heating for 160,000 households and electricity for 62,500 households at 99 per cent energy efficiency because it is centrally located to minimise transmission losses. As byproducts there are 100 million litres of water recovered through flue gas condensation, 90 per cent reclamation of metals amounting to 10,000 tonnes of metal a year and 100,000 tonnes of ash used as road material.

In the first year of operation the plant was generating a useful profit but as the population and industry became more waste-conscious the volume of waste reduced, and to keep the plant operating at capacity they are now inviting neighbouring countries to send in appropriate waste – and earning even more from that initiative. (Our neighbouring country did not need any invitation to dump armaments and toxic radioactive military waste around our coast. Nuclear waste and rusting nuclear submarines have also been generously donated.)

The UK’s own environment officials estimated that meeting even the 65 per cent target by 2030 would save almost £10 billion over a decade in waste sector, greenhouse gas and social costs. Not quite making an income but a valuable saving, surely? In spite of that advice the UK is currently set to miss its existing target of 50 per cent recycling by 2020, with the recycling rate stuck at 44 per cent in recent years.

This comment was prompted by receipt of a notification from my local council (Perth & Kinross) that they will now be charging £25 per bin for garden waste, specifically “grass cuttings, small twigs and branches, leaves, cut flowers, houseplants, weeds, hedge clippings, sawdust, bark and hay.”

Why discourage people from recycling such eminently recyclable waste? It can easily be reduced to make useful compost, which in turn would easily find a market. Although benign as landfill, such garden waste is bulky and will take up considerable space if householders put it in their non-recyclable bin. And I suspect we’ll have more garden bonfires polluting the air and dirtying the washing.

The council will still collect food waste materials. In our household we put vegetable peelings and such on the compost heap and on average bin less than half a litre of mainly meat and fish scraps per week. At this rate it will take us ten years to fill the standard 240-litre wheelie bin, but the council tell me they have no intention of providing a smaller receptacle.

Common sense seems in short supply at all levels of government. There must surely be a better way to run a small country.

Murray Dunan