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 John Hayes John Hayes Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 4:45 pm, 10th April 2003

I raised a couple of significant questions in the debate on the first group of amendments. The Minister properly did not respond to them because, as he implied in his response, they were really stand part points, so I shall raise them now. I shall repeat them for his convenience, and he may want to address them.

My first point is about the nature of biodegradable waste. As I said, that is dynamic, as the contents of a waste bin are changing, and, because technology is changing, things are now biodegradable that were not before. Processes are improving, and it would be useful to have some feel for how that is happening. What are the trends? What is the current picture and what is it likely to be in a year or five years? If we are going to have the strategy we all want, we will need to set targets, and we will need to set them against the trends. Is there a model for that, and is the Minister aware of it?

My second related point is about subsection (3), which defines municipal waste. If we are going to make a judgment about whether the nature of biodegradability is changing, we must make a

judgment about the profile of the average household's waste. It may be getting bigger or smaller, or it may be that the balance of waste is changing. Lifestyle issues may have had an impact on that during the past decade or more. I do not want to speak too much about my childhood, as it makes me sound as if I am lost in a halcyon past, but in the golden age when there were only ever Conservative Governments and television programmes were so much better, I suspect that the average waste bin was rather different. Again, there are probably models of that, and if we are going to meet the targets, I would be interested to know what measurements have been made of the change in waste profile and how it affects them.

Those are specific and testing issues, and I appreciate that the Minister may not have the information readily to hand, though perhaps he does, judging by what he is reading. If he wishes to return to the Committee later with the information or send it in writing, I would be satisfied.