Waste and Emissions Trading Bill [Lords]

– in a Public Bill Committee on 29th April 2003.

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[Mr. Win Griffiths in the Chair]

Photo of Mr Win Griffiths Mr Win Griffiths Labour, Bridgend 8:55 am, 29th April 2003

Before we resume our debate, I shall give the Minister the opportunity to clarify one or two issues that he wants to bring to the Committee's attention.

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment)

I am very grateful, Mr. Griffiths.

At our sitting on Thursday 10 April, the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes) asked a number of questions about trends in the nature of biodegradable waste and in the profile of waste from the average household. I have responded in writing to nearly all the issues raised, and I hope that hon. Members will receive those responses today. I am sorry that that will not be in time for this morning's sitting, and for that reason I shall state some of our main conclusions.

Unfortunately, we do not have any information about trends in the nature of biodegradable waste. However, analysis of waste composition based on work done in the mid–1990s gives information about the proportion of the municipal waste stream that is biodegradable and about the main waste streams that make up that element. According to those data, around 63 per cent.—nearly two thirds—of municipal waste is biodegradable. That is the figure that will be used by the Secretary of State when setting targets for England, Scotland and Wales for the landfill allowance scheme.

Around 51 per cent.—that is just over half—of biodegradable municipal waste is made up of paper and card, and a further 33 per cent.—a third—is made up of putrescible waste such as green waste and food waste. The remaining 16 per cent. is made up of textiles, fines and miscellaneous combustible materials. Further analysis of the composition of municipal waste was also undertaken as part of the recent strategy unit report; that suggested a higher percentage of biodegradable garden and kitchen waste and a lower percentage of biodegradable materials such as paper.

Unfortunately, due to the limited amount of data available, I am unable to give hon. Members further trends in the nature of biodegradable waste. However, the Environment Agency will be doing a further survey of the composition of municipal waste over a period of time.

The hon. Gentleman also asked about the profile of the average householder's waste. Household waste makes up 90 per cent. of municipal waste. The largest component of that is paper and card—again, that is about a third—and putrescible waste, which is just over a fifth. The other main contributors, in order, are glass, miscellaneous combustible waste, fines, ferrous

metal and dense plastics. Hon. Members can see that the streams that make the largest contribution to household municipal waste arisings are biodegradable; and they will therefore come into the remit of the targets set out under the Bill.

It is also clear that household waste arisings are increasing. That is a matter of considerable concern. From the municipal waste survey we know that average annual growth between 1995–96 and 2000–01 is 3.3 per cent. per annum for municipal waste as a whole and 2.7 per cent. per annum for household waste. Part of the increase in waste arisings can be explained by the increasing number of households. Growth in households has outstripped population growth for many years. When that is taken into account, the average annual growth in waste per household is 1.8 per cent. per annum. That is significantly less, but it is a constant increase.

Other reasons for the increases include economic trends, higher living standards and changes in consumer behaviour. Factors such as the collection infrastructure may also have an effect. For example, the introduction of wheeled bins—wheelie bins as we call them in Oldham—may result in more household waste being collected and entering the waste stream.

Those are the most accurate data that we have on trends and I hope that that information has gone some way to answer the hon. Gentleman's queries. More research is planned, and that will help us to understand what further steps need to be taken to tackle the increase in waste arisings.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

On a point of order, Mr. Griffiths. I am grateful to the Minister. It is useful for the Committee that he has brought back that information in that way. I shall not comment at length—

Photo of Mr Win Griffiths Mr Win Griffiths Labour, Bridgend

It would be out of order anyway.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

However, it is important to say that it represents both good news and bad news, as the Minister implied—good news in terms of the capacity for recycling, reuse and so on, bad news in terms of the growth of the problem. Perhaps we shall explore both at greater length.Clause 22 ''Landfill''