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Compostable Waste from Parliament

House of Commons Commission – in the House of Commons on 6th February 2020.

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Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Labour, Bristol East

To ask the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire, representing the House of Commons Commission, what steps the Commission is taking to ensure that compostable waste from Parliament is composted.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

It is a real pleasure to answer questions on behalf of the House of Commons Commission. This is the first time that a member of the Scottish National party has answered questions in the House. I pay tribute to my predecessor, Tom Brake, who answered questions diligently and conscientiously.

I thank the hon. Lady for this first and very important question. To ensure that compostable food and disposable materials such as coffee cups and salad trays are composted, Parliament’s environmental sustainability team has set up a process to enable them to be effectively segregated. It covers the first point of disposal in dedicated compostable bins located throughout the estate to the final in-vessel composting facility. This initiative is backed by a wide range of communication and engagement tools to support Parliament’s “Right Waste, Right Bin” campaign.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Labour, Bristol East

I welcome the hon. Member to—

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Labour, Rhondda

The establishment. [Laughter.]

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Labour, Bristol East

To the establishment! A knighthood cannot be far behind.

An investigation by Footprint, whose findings were published in July, found that all the compostable packaging collected in the Houses of Parliament between October 2018 and May 2019 was incinerated rather than composted. Can the hon. Gentleman confirm that that is not the case, and that no further compostable waste has been incinerated since May 2019? Can he also share some of the challenges involved in trying to introduce composting on such a huge estate with other organisations that are seeking to introduce it?

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

I can reassure the hon. Lady that Parliament takes composting very seriously, and so far 15.4 tonnes of waste have been successfully composed. However, as she says, there was an issue with the new scheme at first because of the levels of non-compostable waste and the fact that the bins were far too high for the receiving facility to compost the first batch of it. I can reassure her that every subsequent load has been successfully composted as use of the bins has improved.

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell Conservative, Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale

It is a real honour to be able to ask a question of such a senior member of the British establishment. [Laughter.]. Tempted as I am to ask him how much of this waste is Scotland’s waste and when we are going to get it back—[Laughter]—I prefer to ask him what the parliamentary estate is doing generally to reduce the waste of all types that is produced on the estate.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his very sincere congratulations and welcome. [Laughter.] I assure him that Scotland does indeed ensure that it receives its Barnett consequentials when it comes to the waste produced in the House.

Parliament takes this issue very seriously, and the environmental sustainability team works in close liaison with the Commons catering department to ensure that all the procurement specifications have all the necessary certifications. All the composting that takes place in the House has met the very highest standards, both European and world, and I am happy to reassure the House that we are making great progress with this scheme.

Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady SNP Chief Whip

I congratulate my hon. Friend—he should be right hon.—on his appointment. Can he confirm that, or find out whether, the signs used in the Division Lobbies to indicate an England-only vote under the EVEL process will be either recyclable or compostable when they are consigned to the dustbin of history?

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

I find all the welcomes that I have received very endearing. I understand that the signs that were produced earlier this week for the English votes procedure will not be required as part of the scheme as they are likely to be used again, but I think that once they have been binned we will ensure that they are effectively composted and no waste is produced.