Clause 49 - Payments for waste recycling and disposal

Part of Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 25th January 2005.

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Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Minister of State (Environment and Agri-Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 3:00 pm, 25th January 2005

The hon. Member for Ludlow makes some relevant points. I understand what is behind the amendment. It is understandable that credits should reward only genuine and worthwhile re-use activity by preventing waste attracting a credit payment when it is disposed of shortly after being re-used or when it is re-presented for re-use a number of times over a short period. Theoretically, it could be available for a credit on education. However, as the hon. Gentleman said, it is possible that materials could be re-used on a number of occasions, and it may be appropriate that they attract a credit. It is also difficult to link the definition of a waste item as re-used to a certain period. Monitoring and enforcing that would present real challenges.

For the purposes of recycling credit, there are practical reasons why waste should be regarded as re-used regardless of the period for which the re-used issues remain in use. The essential point is that re-use reduces the amount of waste that has to be disposed of, and that is the principal objective. That is the case every time an item is re-used: it is prevented from being thrown away. It is therefore right that recycling credit should be available each time an item is re-used rather than discarded. In some ways, it does not really matter how long it is re-used for, as long as the item is kept in use, and refurbished if appropriate.

Local authorities have expressed concerns that the provision could lead to authorities paying for re-use of the same item several times, and then paying for disposal anyway. I am not sure that that would be the case, but it is no different to recycling in which a material will be recycled several times but ultimately disposed of. Incentive payments remain worthwhile if an item is diverted from landfill by being re-used, as the item takes the place of a new item that would otherwise also be presented for disposal in due course.

There is a problem with the workability of the amendment. There is also a problem with the definition. There is a real issue about ensuring value from the payment of credits, so that they incentivise only genuine and worthwhile re-use that contributes to the sustainable management of waste. That is best achieved by local authorities operating and funding   the right re-use schemes. I have visited several of those schemes, which are run by very committed people. They are often linked to training, they provide an important social function and are responsible and respectable. Local authorities can choose whether to enter into an arrangement with the various re-use schemes, and they would not do so unless they were confident that they were run by a respectable organisation. Those that I have seen are certainly that.

There is already a duty to deliver best value, which requires local authorities to be satisfied that the schemes provide value for money in terms of environmental, economic and social benefits, to ensure that they are verifiable and not open to fraud before they are undertaken, and that they are supported through the payments that they may give to third parties. That is in the hands of local authorities, so they have some control over what they do and what standards they want.

The Government are planning to consult and to publish guidance to ensure that local authorities that wish to introduce re-use schemes or to support them through credit payments can ensure best value through access to information about established good practice. As I said, many schemes have been established throughout the country and they provide a very good service. They refurbish a lot of electrical goods, which provide low-cost options for low-income families and, most importantly, they divert those products from landfill and waste and extend their useful life. It is therefore important to encourage such schemes, which is what the clause sets out to do.