Awkward clip emerges of Rishi Sunak talking about his own recycling bins

  • A clip has been dug up of Rishi Sunak saying his household is "obsessive" about recycling, despite it requiring "lots of bins"

  • It comes after the PM claimed to be scrapping net zero policies that he said included forcing people to recycle in seven different bins

  • The PM has been accused of backtracking and 'pretending to halt frightening proposals that simply do not exist'

A clip of Rishi Sunak backing the idea of "lots of bins" for recycling has emerged as the prime minister came under fire for claiming to halt various policies as part of a major rethink – or U-turn, as some critics have described it – on net zero.

On Wednesday, the PM said he was easing several green policies, including pushing back a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to 2035, as well as claiming he was scrapping other "heavy-handed measures" that he said included compulsory car-sharing and forcing people to recycle in seven different bins.

The announcement has seen critics claim that Sunak was "pretending to halt frightening proposals that simply do not exist" and using the announcement to score points.

The PM has now faced further ridicule after BBC Newsnight dug up a clip of him appearing to advocate for a lot of recycling bins.

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visits Writtle University College near Chelmsford on September 21, 2023. (Photo by Alastair Grant / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ALASTAIR GRANT/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Rishi Sunak has been accused of playing politics by announcing the scrapping of schemes that critics say were never government policy. (Getty) (ALASTAIR GRANT via Getty Images)

The latest on the government's Net Zero plans: Read more/Latest news

In the clip, taken from one of last year's Conservative leadership debates on 25 July, Sunak is asked what three things people should change in their lives to make a difference on climate change.

He responds by outlining that he takes "advice from his two young daughters" on these matters and that reducing energy usage is an "obvious thing to do".

He then goes on to say this: "Recycling – and that is a thing that in our house we are obsessive about – I know it's a pain, you need lots of bins, but it is something that's very good for the environment."

The clip added fuel to claims that Sunak is back-tracking on previous pledges in order to score political points, as well as drawing criticism for referring to so-called policies, such as sorting your rubbish into seven bins - that critics say never actually existed.

'Smoke and Mirrors'

Sunak shared an image claiming the government was stopping 'heavy-handed measures'. (Twitter/Rishi Sunak)
Sunak shared an image claiming the government was stopping 'heavy-handed measures'. (Twitter/Rishi Sunak)

On Wednesday, the PM shared a poster on X – formerly Twitter – claiming that the government would: "never impose unnecessary and heavy-handed measures on you, the British people".

The list within the poster included references to: "sorting your rubbish into seven different bins", as well as "compulsory car sharing", "new taxes to discourage flying" and "taxes on eating meat".

But critics were quick to point out that many of the 'heavy-handed measures' were neither government nor Labour Party policy.

Green energy industrialist Dale Vince told Sky News that Sunak was "trying to dazzle everyone with smoke and mirrors", while Tory peer Zac Goldsmith accused the PM of "pretending to halt frightening proposals that simply do not exist".

Elsewhere, official Defra guidance sent out to industry on Wednesday night supported claims that Sunak's pledge to protect people from having to have seven bins was baseless.

Outlining plans for an approach referred to as 'Simpler Recycling', it said: "whilst it was never the case that seven bins would be needed by households, this new plan ensures it".

'Watering down' net zero targets

In its 2019 manifesto, the government pledged to reach net zero – which means not adding to the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – by 2050.

The pledge came after 197 countries agreed in the 2015 Paris Agreement to try to keep future global temperature rises "well below" 1.5C in a bid to curb climate change.

But Sunak's latest announcements have been criticised as "watering down" previous targets.

His press conference on Wednesday saw him push back the planned 2030 ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars to 2035, along with plans to phase out gas boilers from 2035.

But he said he had made the changes to ease "unacceptable costs" on British households, insisting: "Our targets remain, our commitment to net zero and the Paris and Cop agreements that we signed remains."

He suggested the UK is ahead of other countries in its aims, but climate advisors previously warned that the country risks failing, with a report from the Climate Change Committee suggesting that most policies were not on track to meet the 2030 targets.