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

Part of Waste and Emissions Trading Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:15 pm on 10th April 2003.

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Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 4:15 pm, 10th April 2003

My contribution will be in the form of two questions. The Minister may be able to answer them now. If not, I hope that he will either answer them in writing or come back to the Committee. They relate to the first and second parts of the clause.

The hon. Member for Guildford referred to the first of my questions, which relates to the changing nature of biodegradable waste and how it is defined. Just as the Minister said in our last discussion, these things are dynamic, both in the processes that can be employed to assist with waste disposal, which are constantly changing, and in the nature of the materials with which we are dealing. New materials are being developed all the time—for example, plastics are becoming more biodegradable in some cases and less hazardous in others. What impact is that likely to have on the steps that we need to take to meet the requirements of the Bill? That will have an impact on recovery, reuse and recycling. Can the Minister give us more detail about the changing nature of biodegradable waste?

My second question relates to municipal waste, although, again, I do not expect the Minister necessarily to have the information to hand. I want to know how municipal waste is changing. As lifestyles, technology and the materials that we use change, so does the typical municipal waste bin. To use the Minister's phrase, what goes into wheelie bins now will be quite different from what went into them five, 10 or 20 years ago. We must have a profile of waste so that we can reach proper conclusions about how to deal with it. Unless that profile is accurate—again, I accept that this is a dynamic issue—it is hard

to reach conclusions about the Bill's likely effectiveness.

So, I am seeking information about biodegradability, the waste profile and the relevant trends. I would be grateful if the Minister could pick up those matters.