HC Deb 27 April 1998 vol 311 cc2-4W
Mr. Matthew Taylor

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what action he is taking to help local authorities to meet the waste recycling targets of(a) 60 per cent. reduction of wastes going to landfill by 2005, (b) recovery of 40 per cent. of municipal waste by 2005, (c) 25 per cent. household waste recycled by 2000 and (d) 75 per cent. of local authorities actively promoting composting by 2000. [38616]

Angela Eagle

Our prime aim is to move waste management up the waste hierarchy—reduction, re-use, recovery (which includes composting, recycling and energy from waste), and finally disposal—having regard to the Best Practicable Environmental Option (BPEO). On the national targets mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, we have taken the actions set out below.

(a) The target in the previous Government's White Paper "Making Waste Work" is to reduce the proportion of controlled waste going to landfill to 60 per cent. by 2005. The landfill tax is the main tool we have for reducing the amount of waste going to landfill and the increase in the standard rate of tax (for active waste) from £7 to £10 per tonne, which takes effect from April 1999, will build on the reduction that has already taken place since the introduction of the tax. The same proportion£20 per cent.£of additional revenue generated by this increase will be available for distribution to environmental bodies as is the case for funds under the current scheme. The Government will also be considering whether the environmental bodies scheme could be enhanced, and in particular examining how it could be used to encourage more recycling.

Under the United Kingdom's presidency of the European Union, a Council Common Position has been agreed on the draft landfill directive, which would entail substantial reductions in the landfill of biodegradable municipal waste.

(b) "Making Waste Work" also set a target of 40 per cent. recovery of municipal waste by 2005. We have accepted all of the recommendations of the cross-sectoral Review Group on the Role of Local Authorities in Recycling, one of which was that Waste Disposal Authorities and Waste Collection Authorities should work together to formulate integrated municipal waste management strategies. Such a strategy would bring into play all the various ways of dealing with waste—composting, recycling, energy from waste and final disposal. With the increasing cost of final disposal to landfill, I would expect waste management options further up the hierarchy to play a more important role in an integrated waste management strategy than they do at present. Composting, recycling and energy from waste all count towards this national recovery target.

The Department has recently issued guidance to local authorities on revising their recycling plans and strategies. The emphasis in the guidance is very much on authorities working together towards integrated municipal waste strategies, of which we expect waste collection authorities' recycling plans to form an integral part.

The Packaging Regulations will also have an important role to play in meeting this target. The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 1997 were introduced by the previous Government and reflect a shared approach agreement between business sectors as a means of implementing the EC Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste. These Regulations are a first step towards changing attitudes in industry and in society more generally towards consumption, disposal and recycling. The targets in the Regulations are staggered in such a way that will allow the UK to meet the Directive targets as required in 2001, that is that at least 50 per cent. of packaging waste be recovered each year from 2001 and thereafter, and at least 15 per cent. of each material be recycled.

The Regulations are currently being reviewed by the Advisory Committee on Packaging. Among the matters under consideration is the scope for strengthening the local authority role. The Committee is to report at the end of May. Consultation on any proposed changes to the Regulations will take place in the summer.

(c) As far as the target of recycling 25 per cent. of household waste is concerned, we do not now expect it to be met. However, it needs to be recognised that some local authorities are already recycling 25 per cent. of their household waste, although others only manage less than 3 per cent. The important thing is for those authorities with lower recycling rates to benefit from the experience of those achieving higher rates, and to this end the Department is currently undertaking a Good Practice project, which will disseminate to all authorities the good practice of, and lessons learnt by, about forty authorities.

(d) "Making Waste Work" contains targets on composting, including for 1 million tonnes of organic household waste a year to be composted by 2001. This administration is keen to increase the quality and quantity of municipal waste which is composted. One of the main barriers to centralised composting is the lack of markets for the end product. In November last year we issued guidance to local authorities on designing and marketing their compost to large-scale users, mainly in the horticultural and landscaping industries. At the same time, we issued guidance to a wide range of prospective users in those sectors on the benefits of specifying waste-derived compost.

We have also set up a Composting Development Group to identify the problems and obstacles of marketing waste-derived composts to the agricultural, land restoration, landscaping and horticultural sectors, and to develop proposals to help overcome them. The Group is due to report in the summer.