HC Deb 29 July 1997 vol 299 cc131-3
3. Mr. Canavan

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what steps he is taking to encourage recycling for environmental reasons. [9350]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Angela Eagle)

We are looking carefully at both existing measures and at possible further measures to increase recycling. Recycling makes sense only if it represents the best practicable environmental option for a particular waste stream.

Mr. Canavan

As the foundry industry is a recycling industry, will my hon. Friend support its strong case that the greensand that it uses should be treated as inactive waste and therefore subject only to the lower rate of landfill tax of £2 per tonne rather than the higher rate of £7 per tonne? Now that the Environment Agency has commissioned a special study into the matter, will the Department make appropriate representations at the appropriate time to ensure a fair outcome for the foundry industry and those employed in it?

Angela Eagle

As my hon. Friend will know, the landfill tax has been in existence for less than a year. We plan to look at how it operates this autumn, and I shall ensure that his comments are passed on to the people responsible for doing that. We shall see whether we can ensure that greensand has been properly classified for the purposes of landfill charge.

Sir Sydney Chapman

Have the Government accepted, and are they implementing, the strategy set by the previous Government, aimed at recycling one quarter of all household waste by 2000 AD?

Angela Eagle

We certainly hope to achieve the targets set by the previous Government, and perhaps even to improve on them. However, the mechanisms that they put in place for achieving the recycling targets are totally inadequate. As yet, only 6.5 per cent. of material is recycled and 12.5 per cent. recovered. The previous Government were good at setting the target but not so good at examining ways to achieve it. We shall consider issues such as recovery, waste minimisation, recycling, and the effects of the way in which the landfill tax works, so that we can introduce better incentives for reaching the targets that the hon. Gentleman mentioned.

Mrs. Anne Campbell

I welcome the progress made towards increasing the recycling of glass, but will my hon. Friend examine ways of encouraging manufacturers to recycle bottles, which is common in other countries, as a means of making further energy savings?

Angela Eagle

As my hon. Friend will know, the markets for recycled material are only just beginning to be established, and because of the large fluctuations in prices for such materials, they are not yet stable. My hon. Friend will be aware of the waste packaging regulations that have just been introduced, and we are assessing how those work. The Government are not only examining ways of encouraging the creation of markets for recyclable materials, but thinking about what we can do to encourage a more stable atmosphere, in which people can recycle.

There is overwhelming evidence that individuals wish to recycle. In response to a Gallup poll, 95 per cent. said that they wanted to do so. We want to create stable conditions in which it is easy for people to recycle, so that the streams of recyclable materials now being produced can be put to proper use, rather than ending up wonderfully separated but back in the landfill.

Mr. Bob Russell

On the basis that Governments should lead by example, is the ministerial team happy with the record that it inherited, especially with regard to Government Departments? What steps do Ministers plan to take to improve on the previous Government's record?

If the Minister would like an example, may I direct her attention to the excellent record of Colchester borough council?

Angela Eagle

We are more than anxious to examine best practice at local authority level and in other areas. The Government can learn a good deal from some of the innovative schemes that local authorities have put in place. However, only 8 per cent. of local authorities are approaching even the targets that the previous Government set. Clearly, we must look to our own behaviour, which is why I recently hosted a conference on green procurement.