New clause 30 - Zero waste strategy

Part of Waste and Emissions Trading Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 10th April 2003.

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Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment) 3:00 pm, 10th April 2003

My hon. Friend raised an important point about definitions. Aspirational targets such as zero waste are rather vague. However, I must not let the moment pass without referring to the speech made by the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings, which was remarkable, not because he gave us the best of reasons to include volume and weight, but because of his panegyric about litter. I thought that I had finally found a soul-mate when he referred to zero tolerance, although he was a little wimpish about the penalties. I thought that he might have recommended the reintroduction of the stocks, but he did not go quite that far. However, his general attitude, which the country needs, about the

intolerance of laziness and sloppiness is something that is widely shared.

We are dealing with the new clauses together, because they are all concerned with the production of strategies for waste management. They bring together several issues and I shall try to deal with each of them. They express, once again, the understandable wish of hon. Members to extend the scope of the Bill and to tackle all sustainable waste management issues in one go—I see nods of assent. It might help those hon. Members with large ambitions if explain in more detail how the Bill fits with the wider strategy to bring about sustainable waste management in the United Kingdom.

Our vision for sustainable waste management was, I repeat once more, set out in ''Waste Strategy 2000''—perhaps I should circulate it before the next sitting so that my constant pleas do not fall on stony ground—and by the other UK Administrations in their waste strategies. ''Waste Strategy 2000'' gives us the overall framework. It looks at the whole waste hierarchy from waste minimisation to landfill, and it covers all waste streams. The strategy sets out our ambition to break the link between economic growth and increased waste. It also makes it clear that, where waste is produced, we must put it to good use. Although I have said this before and do not wish to keep repeating it, I am vigorous in asserting that it is the right policy. ''Waste Strategy 2000'' is a living document, not one to be archived; it is the framework on which we continue to build in light of further developments, inadequacies of policy or gaps in the strategy. We are delivering, and the Bill is part of that delivery.

New clauses 17 to 20 would require each country of the UK to produce a strategy for zero waste. My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) asked what that means. Zero waste is usually understood to mean that no waste is sent to landfill. In its more radical form it could be zero waste production in a totally closed resource cycle—materials biodegrade, they provide the input for the production of alternative products or they are, in some other way, filtered out of the manufacturing process. However, I suspect that hon. Members mean the former.

The latter is a fine concept, and something that we should aim for, but it is an ambitious goal. I fear that we are running away with ambitious goals when our current position is lamentably inadequate. Only when we turn the corner and fundamentally change existing practices can we begin seriously to aim for such goals. However, even this is a hugely ambitious concept, which goes well beyond the scope of the Bill and of the landfill directive.