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

Part of Waste and Emissions Trading Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 10th April 2003.

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Photo of Ms Sue Doughty Ms Sue Doughty Liberal Democrat, Guildford 4:45 pm, 10th April 2003

One might think that inserting the words ''collected by collection authorities'' would be an obvious thing to do. However, we are concerned, because councils have had a lot of problems in measuring their recycling levels. There has recently been an outbreak of sparring between political parties, as each has tried to prove that it is the greenest. The definition of how waste is measured has changed as the years have gone by. As each council tries to prove that it is green and that its recycling figures are on the gentle upward path, other parties come along, take advantage of the fact that the definition has changed and say, ''No they're not.'' Everything depends on how one counts things, as opposed to whether the general thrust is towards increased recycling, and we have been concerned about that.

We wish to define waste from households as municipal waste that is ''collected by collection authorities''. However, that waste could also be that which is collected at municipal waste facilities or dumped waste that is collected. Such distinctions are important when we try to define the figures. With the amendment we are trying to clarify the exact point at which household waste becomes biodegradable municipal waste and counted for those purposes. The worst example might be the problem of home composting. An estimate used to be made of the amount of waste that went to composting and was included in figures as a generally agreed rate. Now, however, councils are not sure what effect that has on the overall figures and what is sent to recycling.

There is still the problem of how to reward councils that encourage households by giving them cones and composters. We do not see that waste, because although people are being virtuous and filling up their composters nicely with it, it does not go anywhere to be recycled because it is not even collected in the first place. The amendment seeks clarification on how such waste is counted so that when councils look at their performance figures, they know the exact point at which it becomes material sent for recycling.