The prospect of Reading adopting a German-style bottle recycling scheme received widespread support as election candidates debated waste and water quality at a hustings.

The debate was held at an atypical venue, the Hills Meadow Car Park as part of a travelling event by environmental group Surfers Against Sewage, which campaigns for clean water.

Politicians from four parties took part in the debate after activism held by the group and other groups such as the Angling Trust and River Action.

Representing Labour was Tony Page, former Mayor and a councillor for 51 years, as Reading Labour candidates were unable to attend.

Mr Page quipped that while Reading doesn’t have the surf, it does have the sewage.

Councillor Raj Singh Conservative candidate for Reading Central and the Liberal Democrat Henry Wright, as was cllr Carolyne Culver, the Green candidate for Reading West and Mid Berkshire.

One of the questions was whether the candidates supported a German-style deposit return scheme for bottles and cans, where people typically get 25 euro cents back to spend in the store they recycled the bottle at.

Atlhough all candidates agreed a bottle deposit return scheme would be positive, the question did lead to a clash over the lack of roadside glass recycling in Reading.

Cllr Singh (Conservative, Kentwood) said: “Look at roadside glass recycling.

“Just go to any neighbouring council, in West Berkshire for example, it’s been there for over 10 years.

“Whenever we call for the Labour council to introduce it, they just pass the blame onto national government.”

For his part, Mr Wright said: “It [doorstep glass recycling] been in the Lib Dem manifesto for years.

“Labour have had over 10 years to deliver it, they haven’t delivered it yet!”

The council’s Labour administration has argued _

The participants also discussed water quality, as Hills Meadow is located opposite Clearwater Court, the headquarters of Thames Water.

Pete Devery, environment communications officer for the Angling Trust, called for court proceedings against water companies and jail time for water polluters.

Meanwhile, Martin Salter, chief policy advisor for the Angling Trust and Labour MP for Reading West from 1997-2010, argued that fishers are the ‘canaries in the coal mine’ for water quality in rivers.

He stated that investment is needed in sewage infrastructure, and the water industry needs to be restructured.

Mr Salter said: “Soundbites won’t fix this problem.”

In reply, participants explained what they are doing to try and solve the issue, and argued that communication with Thames Water can be difficult.

Cllr Culver (Green, Ridgeway) said: “I’ve been a flood warden since the start of the year. I know more now than the system than I ever thought I would.

“I’ve learnt who’s responsible for what.”

She added that as a warden, she has observed sewage flooding first hand in villages such as Compton in West Berkshire.

 Meanwhile, Mr Page said that communications with Thames Water at its headquarters in Reading is ‘about as impenetrable here as it is in Compton and elsewhere’.

For his part, cllr Singh said he has advocated for residents struggling with sewage infrastructure at the Riverside Residential Park in Tilehurst.

The hustings was held on Monday, June 24. Candidates from Reform UK, Independents and smaller parties were not present.

Adam Gillman, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate for Reading Central questioned why he was not invited to the hustings.