Waste Incineration

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons on 9th May 2019.

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Photo of John Grogan John Grogan Labour, Keighley

What assessment he has made of the potential merits of a moratorium on new waste incineration plants to promote recycling.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

It is important to do whatever we can to recycle as much waste as possible, but waste incineration plants continue to play an important role in generating energy instead of diverting waste to landfill. However, our assessment is that additional residual waste energy capacity above that already planned to 2020 should not be needed if we achieve our recycling targets.

Photo of John Grogan John Grogan Labour, Keighley

Further to that welcome reply, has the Minister seen the recent report from independent consultants Eunomia? It indicates that we will indeed have enough waste incineration capacity to deal with our country’s residual waste and that if we build more incinerators, the danger is that waste will be diverted from recycling.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I have not seen that report, but the hon. Gentleman will be aware that we discussed this matter in his recent Westminster Hall debate. It is important to say that we are still making progress to ensure that we achieve our recycling targets, but incineration by default is certainly not the answer that we want to promote.

Photo of Maggie Throup Maggie Throup Conservative, Erewash

As the fast fashion trend continues to increase, will the Minister outline both the short-term and long-term plans to tackle the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of clothing that is incinerated every year?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

There is definitely a market for trying to extract fibres from textiles. We are considering extending the extended producer responsibility to textiles, but the policy is still under consideration.

Photo of Jessica Morden Jessica Morden Opposition Whip (Commons), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

The Minister will know that Wales recycles more than any other part of the UK, with ambitious targets and a new £6 million fund to help businesses become plastic free. Should the Government not learn from Wales, given that they are flatlining on their own targets?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

We do, and I commend the Welsh Government on that policy deployment. We are consulting on certain measures to try to increase recycling, and the consultation closes next week.

Photo of Sandy Martin Sandy Martin Labour, Ipswich

As the Minister knows, the level of recycling in England rose from around 7% in 1997 to around 44% in 2011, but it has flatlined since then. Much of the incentive for the increase in recycling during those years came from avoiding the landfill tax, and Government capital grants for increasing recycling were balanced by landfill tax receipts. However, now that most household waste is incinerated, those incentives no longer apply. The “Our waste, our resources” strategy states:

“Should wider policies not deliver the Government’s waste ambitions in the long-term, we will consider the introduction of a tax on the incineration”.

Will the Minister tell us how many more years of flatlining it will take before she is willing to make that consideration?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The landfill tax has been important in reducing landfill. As I have just said, we are consulting on measures that build on the resources and waste strategy that we published a few months ago. We have been quite clear that we must ensure that we increase recycling, and we will take further measures if incineration is still proving part of the problem.