Clause 17 - Strategy for England

Part of Waste and Emissions Trading Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 8th April 2003.

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Photo of Ms Sue Doughty Ms Sue Doughty Liberal Democrat, Guildford 4:30 pm, 8th April 2003

I support the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes and the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings. It is an important point, to which the Committee has returned again and again, that we are not here to gold-plate European regulations—I am sure that the Conservatives would not want to do that—but to come up with good legislation that meets Europe's reasonable expectations and to move towards a more appropriate waste strategy. That is the point of the amendments and of later clauses.

The new clauses proposed by the hon. Member for Leominster, none of which I object to in principle,

mention reducing the quantity of waste but do not say by how much. They should be more specific. That is integral to reducing the amount of biodegradable municipal waste that goes to landfill.

We would support the separate collection of dry recyclable wastes. Like many hon. Members, we favour doorstep recycling and support the Bill proposed by the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford. It is important for doorstep recycling to be available to everyone. Many councils have tried to achieve that, but we are still working towards it in many areas. That would help in relation to the amount of waste that goes to landfill.

We have heard about every household having a composter or making a separate collection of biodegradable waste. There are composters and green cones. Composters are appropriate for normal garden waste, peelings and uncooked waste, and I support the idea of every household having them if, by households, we mean houses with gardens. There is no point in those living in flats having composters, but that distinction is not made here. I should like the Bill to say by when such measures should be taken and to propose practical steps to move towards that.

Green cones are not mentioned. They are small devices that gobble up cooked waste—the sort of waste that would not be suitable for the composter—and are particularly useful for those with gardens. There is additional waste that cannot be disposed of by either of those methods. We need only look at the statistics: August is the high point of the season for councils that collect green waste; it is when we prune the overabundant greenery that we should have pruned in spring. Spring is the other time when the waste is woody and cannot be composted down.

Councils have tried to deal with woody waste in many ways, because it is the sort of thing that, in a landfill, produces a lot of methane. It is amazing how much methane wood produces. My constituency contains a contaminated site that is the subject of a planning application. It has a large volume of wood chippings on it and is leaching methane and causing huge problems. Councils assist in a variety of ways, including providing a ''nippy chippy'': a householder pays £10, and a man shreds the waste and gives it back in bags. That is a virtuous circle. We have considered taking green waste away in bags for nothing if it encourages people to get rid of it ready sorted—then it can go to the most appropriate sort of disposal and not into landfill.

On my local council, there are three parties that divide in various ways according to the topic. The Labour environment chair would like to charge 20p for a green bag. I suspect that the cost of doing that is higher than that of giving the bags away for nothing. Although many good methods of reducing the amount of green waste are already employed, we can do more. We can ensure that we put out green bags and that woody waste that will not degenerate quickly in a compost heap is taken away.

My other point is that although we would all like to have composters, some people, for one reason or

another, will do very little about composting. We must also ensure that they are getting separated green waste taken away from their doorsteps. We would prefer it to rot in situ, rather than have to be taken away at all. We would also prefer to have lots of time to do the gardening, as I did on Sunday when I shovelled the stuff from my composter and tried to breathe life into the roses with it.