Clause 21 - ''Biodegradable waste'' and ''municipal waste''

Part of Waste and Emissions Trading Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 10th April 2003.

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Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment) 4:30 pm, 10th April 2003

The amendments are about matters of definition, although one would not have guessed that from the debate. Not only was I asked earlier about an algebraic formula, but I am now being asked about when biodegradable waste is biodegraded. I am not sure that I can answer those questions, so I shall turn to the amendments.

The amendments would amend the definition of biodegradable waste in the clause by replacing the words ''such as'' with ''including, but not exclusively''. They also remove an ''and'' and add at the end of subsection (1)

''and certain plastics designed specifically to degrade within a period of 12 months''.

On the first point, we can argue about the meaning of words, but the words ''such as'' mean the same as, but are better than, ''including, but not exclusively''. I am not sure about the force of the argument for making the change. The key point—I shall also argue this about definitions of biodegradable waste—is that the words in the Bill are used in the landfill directive definition. That is important, because, as I keep on saying, we are concerned with meeting our requirements under article 5(2) of the directive. For that reason, I cannot accept amendment No. 78.

The changes proposed in amendments Nos. 79 and 80 would also result in the definition in the Bill being

different from that in the landfill directive. They would extend the list of examples of biodegradable waste to include specifically

''plastic designed . . . to degrade within a period of 12 months''.

What does the phrase in the amendment mean? Does it mean completely degrade, partially degrade, or that the process of degradation has begun? That is one difficulty. The real point is that the amendment is unnecessary: to the extent that any waste is capable of anaerobic or aerobic decomposition, it will be biodegradable. It is not necessary for such waste to be expressly included in the clause.