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Last Updated: Monday, 17 March 2008, 14:03 GMT
Tories plan waste deals for firms
Plastic bags
The government has threatened to legislate to reduce plastic bag use
Major firms should be asked to sign up to voluntary "responsibility deals" to cut waste, the Conservatives say.

The party says existing EU rules are not wide-ranging enough and are "propping up our throwaway culture".

The former Tory MP and Asda boss Archie Norman has been asked to look for ways of working with firms on a "fundamental rethink" of tackling waste.

The government has given supermarkets a year to slash the use of plastic bags, threatening legislation if they do not.

The steering group on waste is part of a wider drive by the Conservatives to persuade businesses they have an important role to play in creating a better society - on issues from obesity to climate change.

We won't deal with childhood obesity, or teenage pregnancy, or any of the other childhood issues we're looking at, without business acting responsibly, without playing its part
David Cameron
Conservative leader

Earlier Tory leader David Cameron said corporate social responsibility was "a really vital challenge for the future" - but should not burden businesses and the economy with higher tax and regulation.

"We're not going to solve any of the big problems we face as a society, as a country or as a world, unless we have responsible business playing its part," he said.

"We're not going to make Britain a more family-friendly country, unless business plays its part in terms of helping families to have time together.

"We won't deal with childhood obesity, or teenage pregnancy, or any of the other childhood issues we're looking at, without business acting responsibly, without playing its part."

Bureaucratic system

The first issue to be addressed will be waste - with a steering group headed up by Archie Norman, a former shadow environment secretary, to develop a strategy for a new "responsibility deal" for businesses.

Shadow environment secretary Peter Ainsworth said he would look at "how we can be smarter about how we make things in the first place" to reduce waste.

The party says the current approach to dealing with the 330 million tonnes of waste produced in the UK each year is "bureaucratic and sluggish".

They say the EC Directive on packaging and waste has had limited success as it only covers a small amount of waste - such as electrical and electronic equipment, vehicles and batteries.

Meanwhile the effort to increase recycling is "driven by the threat of hefty fines" rather than a "fundamental rethink of how we look at waste".

Landfill targets

The Tories say they want a "non-bureaucratic" approach and say voluntary agreements, made by businesses and brokered by government, are the way forward.

The UK has to reduce waste going into landfill by nearly two-thirds by 2020 to meet EU targets.

Powers to allow five English councils to give financial incentives to encourage recycling - and issue fines for those who do not - were included in the Climate Change Bill.

In the Budget, Chancellor Alistair Darling announced plans to introduce a charge on plastic bags, if supermarkets did not come up with their own ideas to cut their use within 12 months.

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