Clause 49 - Payments for waste recycling and disposal

Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 25th January 2005.

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Photo of David Ruffley David Ruffley Opposition Whip (Commons) 2:45 pm, 25th January 2005

I beg to move amendment No. 67, in clause 49, page 46, line 26, at end insert—

'(13) In this section reusing waste means any operation by which end of life products and equipment or its components are used for the same purpose for which they were conceived for a period of longer than 12 months.'.

Photo of David Ruffley David Ruffley Opposition Whip (Commons)

I think that this will be a short debate. The amendment in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of York seeks to give a slightly better and fuller definition than the one in the Bill. It reads:

''In this section 're-using waste' means any operation by which end-of-life products and equipment or its components are used for the same purpose for which they were conceived for a period of longer than 12 months.''

I hope that the Minister agrees that that is a slight improvement on the deathless prose set out in the Bill by the parliamentary draftsmen. I hope also that he will accept the amendment, and if not, explain why the redrafted definition is deficient.

Photo of Mr Matthew Green Mr Matthew Green Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions, Young People, Non-Departmental & Cross-Departmental Responsibilities 3:00 pm, 25th January 2005

I oppose the amendment, because I want to speak in defence of modern art. The amendment would mean that people would be unable   to re-use an item, such as turning a kettle into some bizarre sculpture, as often happens. It would rule that out because it would be the re-use of a material. If someone took down a garden shed, they could not turn the wooden components into furniture, as that would count as re-use. It seems completely illogical.

Photo of David Ruffley David Ruffley Opposition Whip (Commons)

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on supporting my argument and making my argument for me.

Photo of Mr Matthew Green Mr Matthew Green Shadow Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Local Government & the Regions, Young People, Non-Departmental & Cross-Departmental Responsibilities

I am not at all. The definition of re-use in the amendment is ''used for the same purpose''. I am arguing that re-use does not necessarily mean used for the same purpose. There are many products and materials that can be re-used, but for a different purpose than the one for which they were originally intended.

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Minister of State (Environment and Agri-Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

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.

Photo of David Ruffley David Ruffley Opposition Whip (Commons)

I am grateful for the Minister's explanation, although I am not entirely convinced by the Liberal Democrat spokesman's logic. I should have thought that stopping more modern art being created was probably a good thing, rather than the reverse, especially when one thinks of unmade beds and so on. I am more of an impressionist man—the sort of thing that ordinary blokes can understand. The Tories are ordinary blokes on occasion.

The Minister's points are well made. I understand what he said about the possible deficiency in the definition, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 49 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 50 to 53 ordered to stand part of the Bill.