HC Deb 15 July 1992 vol 211 cc1123-4
4. Mr. Kirkwood

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will estimate what proportion of household waste is currently recycled; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Maclean

We estimate that some 5 per cent. of household waste was recycled in 1990.

Mr. Kirkwood

Is the Minister confident that the Government's target of 25 per cent. of household waste being recycled by the end of the century is on course? Any progress in that direction is welcome, but does the Minister feel that the Department is doing enough to achieve its target? Will he consider specifically the fact that, although £15 million of supplementary credit approvals are available as hypothecated local expenditure in England and Wales, there is no money north of the border for Scottish local authorities to engage in projects? Some useful joint local authority and private schemes north of the border are failing as a result of the lack of finance.

Mr. Maclean

I shall draw the hon. Gentleman's latter point to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. As for our target generally, yes I am confident that we shall meet it. We have a very good industrial waste recycling record. In the last few years, we have set a target for household waste recycling and we intend to meet it. I am keen on the recycling credits that we have recently introduced. Any group, from the smallest voluntary charity to the largest company, can participate in recycling. All the goods and materials that they prevent from going into landfill will qualify for 50 per cent. of the actual cost of landfill. That literally is cash for trash. I urge people to grab it with enthusiasm.

Mr. Robert B. Jones

Does my hon. Friend agree that at least as important as the facilities provided by local authorities is the public attitude towards and awareness of recycling? Will he therefore ensure that there is maximum liaison with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education, to ensure that public awareness starts with the very youngest so that this problem can be conquered once and for all?

Mr. Maclean

I am greatly interested in what my hon. Friend says. I congratulate him on his election to the Chairmanship of the Select Committee and I look forward to hearing the advice of his Committee over the next few years. My hon. Friend is absolutely right on this point. We need to capture public enthusiasm for recycling and let the market take its course. If enough demand is generated to use recycled materials, industry will fill the gap by doing the collection and the recycling. However, recycling has to be led by the consumers. The market will then follow. We must not try to shove and dictate it from the top.

Mr. A. Cecil Walker

May I encourage the Minister to take up with his opposite number the urgent need for recycling facilities in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Maclean

Yes, I certainly shall. When I was at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Minister I visited the Province occasionally. I hope that I shall be able to do so in future. The hon. Gentleman has given me a convenient excuse.

Mr. William O'Brien

In view of the targets set in the Government's White Paper "This Common Inheritance", does not the Minister feel that the Government should give a higher profile to waste recycling? The hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) referred to the shortage of capital to get schemes off the ground. What he said is mirrored in every local authority. Does not the Minister believe that the Government should provide local authorities with capital to get these schemes going? When do the Government intend to give waste recycling a higher profile?

Mr. Maclean

The hon. Gentleman is obviously not aware of the facts. The Government have given waste recycling a very high profile. We set ourselves a high target in "This Common Inheritance." We have allocated £15 million in supplementary credit approvals for this year. We have launched the recycling credit scheme. By 1 August, all local authorities will have to produce their recycling plans. That, as well as the initiatives we have taken to heighten the importance of recycling, means that we shall meet our target. The hon. Gentleman should not assume that the only way to bring about recycling is to throw money at local councils. I want to capture the tremendous enthusiasm of ordinary people, and among the business community, for waste recycling.