The economic crisis could be good for the environment by encouraging people to mend items rather than buying new ones, a West Midlands MP has claimed.
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman (Con Meriden) said a “waste not, want not” attitude would lead to more recycling and less waste.
She made the comments as she launched a major review of England’s waste strategy, in her role as a senior government minister.
It will examine whether shops and manufacturers should be forced or encouraged to label every item so shoppers know whether it can be recycled.
Mrs Spelman also said she wanted manufacturers, for example of toys, to increase efforts to reduce their packaging - a proportion of which she said was “actually marketing material”.
Mrs Spelman said: “For many these are tough times. People are cutting back on their weekly shop, taking shorter holidays and worrying about the future.
“As we change our behaviour our grandparents’ maxims of thrift echo down the years: look after the pennies, waste not, want not, make do and mend.
“Of course, scrimping’s not fun. But by not buying what we won’t use, by mending things that are broken, by avoiding unnecessary packaging, by reusing whenever possible, and recycling what we can’t reuse - and turning what’s left over into energy - we help to tackle the problem of waste.”
She said Birmingham was already succeeding in cutting waste.
“There are some great things already happening in Birmingham. BCR Global Textiles, for example, a family-run company that started back in the 60s as a second hand clothing shop, and is now a leading textile re-use and recycling specialist.
“The company saves 7.8 million tonnes of CO2 emissions each year, through the collection, reuse and recycling of textiles and shoes.
“Congratulations to this city for what’s been achieved so far. We’re now going to help you up your game. We will be encouraging rewards for recycling, and doing all we can to reduce littering.
“We’ll be working with businesses on waste reduction, and ensuring that the waste and recycling industries are innovative, profitable, and contributing to the UK economically and environmentally.
“We also want to see more food waste being used to make energy, rather than rotting in landfill, releasing methane and carbon dioxide.”
The review comes after the new Government announced it was scrapping Labour’s “bin tax” pilot to cut waste, which allowed councils to reward households which reduced waste and penalised those who threw away more.