Orders of the Day — Waste Material (Recycling)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd November 1973.

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Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , Cannock 12:00 am, 22nd November 1973

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Trew) for allowing me the opportunity to say a few words and I congratulate him on his initiative in choosing this subject for an Adjournment debate. It is one of the most important subjects to which we can turn our attention. What is needed in this context more than anything else is a positive war on waste.

Wherever we turn we find an enormous amount of waste. I was recently in America where it is taken to extremes. The Americans talk about conservation and they lament shortages while they drive around in cars which go only nine miles to the gallon and they take Sunday newspapers containing 500 pages. This is to reduce things to absurdity. We have not yet reached that stage here.

There are three matters which cause me concern and which prompted me earlier this year to introduce a Bill which, though deficient in drafting, was, I hope, reasonable in its intentions. The first of my concerns is the superfluous packaging which my hon. Friend mentioned in his wide-ranging speech. For the housewife this inflates the cost of many articles that she buys. Packaging can account for 33 per cent. of the price of many articles. This is wasteful and contributes to inflation. On that level alone therefore, it deserves to be stemmed, and manufacturers should seek to stem it in enlightened self-interest alone.

Then there is the sheer waste of resources to which my hon. Friend also referred. Resources are being squandered on an increasingly prodigal scale, and it does not or should not need present critical circumstances to remind us that we cannot go on in this way and hope to leave a society and a country fit to live in for future generations.

My third concern is the pollution problem, and it is one which occasions a great deal of anxiety. Packages, trash cans, aerosol sprays and all the other items that one can think of are dumped in the countryside with no proper attempt at reclamation. How important it was that my hon. Friend should underline the need for a concerted attack upon this and for proper recycling for all the materials which go into packaging and which otherwise go straight into the dustbin—an enormous mouth which is daily fed at greater and greater cost and to less and less effect.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on what he has done. I endorse what he said, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will be able at least to indicate that the Government have been thinking deeply on these subjects and have some solutions to propose.