New clause 30 - Zero waste strategy

Part of Waste and Emissions Trading Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 10th April 2003.

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Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment) 3:15 pm, 10th April 2003

It depends. The problem of plastics is their non-biodegradability. That is precisely why they were invented. For certain functions, it is their non-biodegradability and non-wear and tear, even over long periods, that makes them so valuable. We are now finding that it is a problem when it comes to waste management. It would not be sensible to commit myself by saying that we should in all cases favour glass over plastic, because glass itself is a problem. We need to analyse the environmental impacts at each stage of a product's life cycle—manufacture, use and disposal. Indeed, the Department is trying to do so, not only with plastics but with other materials.

The waste resources action programme was set up in 2001 to try to find alternative uses. It is working to develop markets for several materials, including plastics. The strategy unit report recommended that the role of WRAP be continued and expanded. We are concerting that in our response to the report, and we hope to publish our response very soon.

New clauses 13 to 16 deal with strategies for recycling and waste reduction; they would require each country of the UK to have a strategy for setting recycling targets for household, business and construction and demolition waste. The strategy would also have to cover the development of a mandatory doorstep recycling scheme and the development of the market for recycled materials. I fully agree with hon. Members that the issues dealt with in the clauses are very important, and we are dealing with them. The waste strategy set a target to reduce by 2005 the amount of commercial and industrial waste sent to landfill to 85 per cent. of that landfilled in 1998.

I am aware that industrial and commercial waste is so much larger a fraction of the total waste that goes to landfill; it is about four to five times that of household or municipal waste. Therefore reducing that amount is four to five times more important. However, there is an argument that the recycling of industrial and commercial waste is at a much higher level; I think that it is 45 per cent. That compares with a recycling level of household waste of 13 per cent. The year 2005 is approaching rapidly, and we should consider what further measures are needed beyond that.