Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 11:30 am on 15th November 2016.
I beg to move,
That this House
has considered the circular economy for leftover paint.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Brady. I thank those Members who have turned up for the debate on this important issue. Originally, my near neighbour and hon. Friend Mr Sheerman was to lead the debate, but was unfortunately unable to do so at the last moment and I gladly offered to take over. Had he been able to be here, my hon. Friend, whom I have known for a long time, would have been a great champion on this issue, not least because he sponsored early-day motion 300 on the remanufacturing of paints in July last year. I am pleased that that early-day motion was tabled, as it shows the widespread support in Parliament for creating a circular economy for leftover waste paint.
To create a truly circular economy takes time and co-operation and needs the backing of the Government, largely because markets cannot deliver this new concept, a circular economy—although, when I think about it, I am not always sure it is that new—through business as usual. Government support is often required to get markets aligned and to make sure that we have developed those markets to maximise the potential of the concept. Although the Waste and Resources Action Programme has helped to make progress, much more remains to be done.
As the hon. Lady may have heard before the start of the debate, the British Coatings Federation is headquartered in my constituency and, unsurprisingly, I have been nailed to the floor several times on this issue. She is right: what we need to do is get a critical mass of sales of recycled paint, as paint, to stimulate the market and move the issue in the public’s mind. Government, particularly local government, should be able to do that. I was also interested in the briefing. As hon. Members can tell from my accent, I come from New Zealand, where, despite being an earthquake country—as people may have recognised—paint materials are being used to make a sort of porous concrete, although I hope not load-bearing.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. He points to the importance of society recognising the win-win situation here. Nobody likes waste, and common sense tells us that if we can re-use it, we should. The ingenuity of modern science is such that it looks as though waste paint can be used to manufacture certain types of concrete. Work on that is ongoing. One only has to look at the paper industry to see what can be done if our minds are truly focused on maximising the potential from waste products.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned that the BCF is in his constituency. I have the world-famous Ronseal in my constituency, a very old company headquartered in Chapeltown. It is now officially Sherwin-Williams, but to local people it will always be Ronseal, a famous name. I have to say this: it does exactly what it says on the tin. No doubt every hon. Member present has used one of its products at some point.
I am proud to have such a company in my constituency, not just because of its amazing slogan that is now part of the language, but because it is good in every way. It makes quality products. It has a workforce to be proud of, which is very loyal to its employer, and it has a real commitment to innovation. I had the pleasure of visiting the company once again the other week to be shown how it is changing its manufacturing processes to decrease waste wherever it possibly can, not just because that is good for the environment but because it is good for the company as well. It reduces cost and effectively improves productivity.
I do not think there will be any division here today on just how important the paint and coatings industry is to the British economy. The sector supports some 300,000 jobs and sells 675 million litres of coatings each year. If we do the maths, that works out at 21 tins of coatings sold each and every minute of the year. The sector directly contributes £180 billion per annum to the UK’s GDP and is a great exporter to the rest of the world.
Why do I and the industry believe that a circular economy is important to the sector and to consumers? Before answering that, I will first set out the scale of the problem that we as a country face with leftover paint. The best way of putting it is to relate it to everyday experience, and I do not think Members of the House will be any different from the rest of society on this one.
There is no doubt that in our garages and sheds we all have unwanted and unused paints. The average UK household has six cans of leftover paint—probably more in my case, if I am honest—taking up space somewhere on the premises. Although some of that paint is no doubt kept for repair and touch-up work in the future, some 30% of people have responded to surveys saying they over-purchased the product in the first place. It is easy to see why that might happen. People overbuy paint because they want to buy from the same batch to get the same colour, which can lead to some of the oversupply problems. Through the project PaintCare, the industry is trying to develop tools to enable customers to be more precise about what they buy, which can only help the situation. I applaud that initiative.
The cost to local government of disposing of the 55 million litres of waste each year, or 71,500 tonnes, which is equivalent to the weight of a luxury cruise ship—albeit, I admit, a fairly small luxury cruise ship nowadays—is estimated at about £20.6 million. The problem is mainly left to local authorities to deal with through general waste or at their household recycling waste centres.
Currently, only 2% of paint or other coating is reused or remanufactured. Most of the remaining 98% is lost to us as a resource, principally because it is incinerated or ends up in landfill. The reasons for that are many and varied, but in the main it is due to the fact that two-thirds of household waste recycling centres do not accept liquid paint, because the disposal of liquid waste, including liquid paint, to landfill is banned in the UK, pursuant to EU requirements. The cost to local authorities of dealing with it is very high, which means they are effectively disincentivised and feel unable to accept liquid paint as part of their waste collection service. Householders are therefore often left with no option but to dispose of paint in general waste. In other words, many residents throw away their waste paint in the normal waste collection, no doubt in black bags so that the bin men do not see it. By so doing, they pass on the problem to others to deal with.
PaintCare consumer research also indicates that 62% of households would use their household waste recycling centre to dispose of waste paint given the opportunity, which points to the importance of that network as a means of disposal for leftover paint. I therefore very much welcome the BCF PaintCare project. I pay tribute to the BCF—it is located in the constituency of Sir Paul Beresford—which has been assiduous in pursuing this project for the reason I outlined earlier: it is good for society, the environment and business, so it is a win-win all around.
The PaintCare project is attempting to turn an environmental threat into an opportunity by working towards a systematic approach to collecting and sorting waste paint. It will also make the remanufacturing of paint from waste products a more viable economic process, as the hon. Gentleman pointed out. However, a remanufacturing industry needs a market—I will come to that point later. The project also involves the BCF working with local government to develop new processes to deal with the waste. At the same time, paint manufacturers are investing millions of pounds in projects to demonstrate how remanufacturing can be made more viable, with a view to developing a long-term market for it.
That innovative work is an excellent example of how a circular economy can work and secure both waste reduction and economic growth. I know that the Minister has a certain view of circular economies—at least, she said in a previous debate that she does not like the term. I also know that there can be a negative side to the concept of the circular economy, because it can be seen to trap economic growth within a certain space, but in my view it is a sophisticated way of describing a common-sense process that has the potential to make the circle bigger and encourage economic growth. There is a saying—I do not know whether it is special to the north of England—“Where there’s muck there’s money.”
Yes, where there’s muck there’s brass.
The important point is that, wherever possible, we should be generating economic growth from waste. It does not matter which term we use to describe the process by which we systematically embed this concept into our economy more generally; we should be committed to doing it. If we are to embed the circular economy on a national scale, it needs Government support. I therefore challenge the Minister to act and to commit to ensuring that 5% of all Government painting contracts use paint products containing a significant percentage of remanufactured content. That will help to stimulate a market for reused paint.
Paint manufacturers are doing their bit; the Government must now step up and play their part too. After all, many companies of all sizes are demonstrating their willingness to invest in this sector and in solutions. Several million pounds has already been invested in commercial ventures and in supporting social enterprises. If the Government are really going to have an industrial strategy—I believe they are serious about doing that—let us ensure that that kind of commitment is at the heart of the process. Let us ensure that the concept of making the best possible use of our resources and recycling them over and over again is embedded within the industrial strategy.
As long as we have houses to paint, and as long as consumers have a desire to protect and look after their homes, we will need a painting industry, which means that we will also have an issue with leftover paint leaking into our environment or being disposed of in general waste. We need to tackle that issue, so creating a circular economy in paint surely makes perfect sense. Not only will it benefit the environment; it will help hard-pressed councils to reduce costs and create a new industry in the remanufacturing process. Like many things, however, Government assistance is needed to help that contribution to the circular economy to grow and prosper. I therefore ask the Minister to update the House on the Government’s progress in this area. Will she commit to a 5% Government target? It is interesting to note that California in the United States—one of the more progressive elements of that continent as it stands now—has made that kind of commitment to procurement, and I think there are initiatives along those lines in New Zealand. The UK should take the lead in Europe. If we are going to leave the European Union, let us at least make the most of where we are and show a bit of leadership on this issue.
What work is the Minister doing with the industry to develop the innovative approaches we need to deal with leftover paint? What will she do to help local government to develop capacities to deal with the mountain of waste paint that we consumers leave behind each year? I look forward to her response and the responses of the other Front Benchers.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Brady—I never thought I would be saying it is a pleasure to speak in a debate about paint so early in my parliamentary career. I thank Angela Smith for introducing the debate and for being an able substitute for our colleague, Mr Sheerman.
What we are discussing is a very simple concept, but given the statistics that the hon. Lady outlined, it is clear that action is needed. The fact that only 2% of leftover paint is recycled and reused at the moment is startling, especially given that we have a drive towards recycling in general and that people are more aware of the issue in a wider context. As she outlined, disposal to landfill results in £20.6 million of extra costs to taxpayers, although that comes through at local level.
Another issue is the widely adopted waste management strategy of the non-acceptance of liquid paint at recycling and waste disposal centres, which runs the risk that people may dump paint, although it does not give them an excuse to do so. I always get really irritated when the public complain that dumping has happened and blame it on the local council. It is not councils’ fault, but they can sometimes allow bad behaviour to happen. As the hon. Lady outlined, people may hide paint disposal in black bags in their general refuse, which defeats the purpose of disposal. Another risk is that people seem to think that sinks, drains and toilets are a fantastic disposal mechanism. They think that liquid paint can go down there, but unfortunately it still goes into the waste disposal system. It either goes through the sewage treatment works or, worse, there is a risk that it enters the river system, which presents another hidden risk of pollution.
We need to ensure that people recycle more and buy less. We need to work with retailers, because they actually encourage us to buy more. Many of the paints and coatings at DIY shops are three for two, so our human instincts kick in and we say, “Well, I’ll just buy the extra tin to get a saving, and if I’ve got any left over I’ll keep it for the future.” We have to educate the wider public and retailers.
I double-checked the waste management strategy at the local authority where I used to be a councillor, and it has fantastic recycling rates, but it confirmed to me that it is unfortunately now in the same position as many other local authorities and does not accept liquid paint. It had a tie-up with a charitable organisation, RePaint Scotland, which folded locally due to a lack of funding, so now there is no way to recycle paint. So my local authority, too, only takes paint to landfill, once dried out or filled with sand to continue the drying-out process. We need to consider how to support such charities. We are paying for paint to go to landfill anyway, so it would be much better to support the charities instead. In the long run, they can also make a difference by supporting other community organisations, vulnerable tenants, or people in new tenancies, and giving them pride in their homes.
Without wanting to allude to typical jokes about Scotsmen, I have an instinct for recycling and reuse. Last year, I was in the States with my in-laws—I was staying there because my wife is American—and they were selling a property, which had a basement full of leftover things, including years of leftover paint. However, we cleaned out the basement and actually used a lot of the paint to paint it, brightening it up, which made a huge difference and made the house sellable. That was my instinct: not to dispose of the paint, but to reuse it.
I discovered something else with the remnants of the leftover paint. As has been outlined, we were not able to dispose of liquid paint in waste disposal, so we had to dry it out. I can tell the House that sometimes drying out paint is not an easy job, believe it or not. It was really warm in the States, we had the paint tins sitting out open and we spent days literally watching paint dry—I had to get that pun in. So we can see how, if people without patience want to dispose of paint quickly, the risk is that they will choose the wrong behaviours.
I also want to touch on the wider circular economy. We buy into the principle of it, and I will mention a couple of things that the Scottish Government are doing for the wider circular economy. They are starting to lead the way, and I hope that the UK Government will follow suit. Earlier this year, the Scottish Government published “Making Things Last”, a strategy to do with developing a circular economy strategy for Scotland. They also launched a £70 million circular economy fund, which is aimed at stimulating innovation, productivity and investment.
At the time, David Palmer-Jones, the chief executive of Suez Environnement’s UK recycling and recovery business, suggested that the UK Government should take
“a leaf out of the Scottish administration’s book”,
by incorporating circular economy principles into business, energy and industrial policy, and I hope we will hear something from the Minister on that. I also agree with the proposed challenge to achieve 5% of Government contracts using recycled paint—I am interested to hear about that as well. I again commend the hon. Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge for introducing the debate.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Brady. I thank my hon. Friend Mr Sheerman for putting on the agenda this important issue of the circular economy—important to debate in itself, and important in the context of where leftover paint fits into that agenda. I also thank my hon. Friend Angela Smith for her contribution, which outlined the importance we should give to some of these niche areas, because the principles behind them then obviously expand to so many other areas.
A startling amount of paint is left over—55 million litres a year, which I understand is equivalent to 20 Olympic swimming pools-worth of paint. That is a baffling thought. I want to put on record my thanks to PaintCare and the British Coatings Federation for their interest in the subject. They are really putting an aggressive agenda forward on how we draw the reuse of leftover paint into the circular economy, and on the opportunities before us, which we are debating this afternoon. There are real opportunities in the reuse and remanufacturing of paint.
I always think that any debate on the circular economy has to begin with the issue of consumption. As Alan Brown said this afternoon, offers that encourage us to overbuy clearly move things in the wrong direction. We also know that there are issues around the size of containers, because they are so large. Price is not proportionate to volume in those containers, so we often buy the larger pot of paint, just in case we need it and, obviously, to see the same colour match, as opposed to buying smaller quantities, which is de-incentivised by the size of the containers. That in itself is an issue that the paint industry could look at. Again, I ask for the Minister’s comments on that, and perhaps on how the Government could help the paint industry look at how to reduce the amount of leftover paint. We know that this is an issue right across industry, and hits on so many other areas too.
We recognise the incredible work of PaintCare in trying to educate the public about the use and volume of paint. PaintCare has a calculator for use on its website, which I had a look at, to help customers make better choices about volumes of paint. We can all benefit from that, because it means a reduction in cost for ourselves as customers, and it provides very useful advice using the technology that is available.
There are other principles to look at, and this afternoon I want to focus on the opportunities we have to reuse and remanufacture paint. We all understand that too much paint is being disposed of at landfill sites or going to incineration, which clearly has a detrimental impact on the environment. Therefore, it is really important that we ask why that is happening and what steps we have to take to move the agenda forward not just in generality, but by having targets year by year.
First, many have identified the fact that far too few household waste and recycling centres accept paint. There should be a universal approach, not a postcode lottery. Will the Minister therefore look at how she may support local authorities to ensure that all centres accept paint that has not been used? Having that postcode lottery is detrimental to the whole recycling business. We know how there are different rules from local authority to local authority. We press the Minister to move forward and to have a universal system, so that we may all understand what gets recycled and how we can dispose of things in the best way possible, and so that we have that link back to reuse and remanufacturing. Everything should be collected in the best way possible, and not put into landfill or sent for incineration.
I was struck by a meeting I had recently with Tetra Pak, the manufacturer, looking at how it disposes of its materials. It is a unique manufacturing sector, and it now recycles 100% of its products through a process that begins with universal collection. Tetra Pak itself, as an industry, started to put its own banks in place for waste products. It then worked increasingly with local authorities to incorporate Tetra Pak products into kerbside collection. It continued, where kerbside collection points were not being taken up by local authorities, by having Tetra Pak’s own collection, so there is now 100% coverage of opportunity.
That seems to be a sensible way of introducing a universal approach, but clearly we want to see local authorities having the responsibility, with support from Government, to take waste products. There are of course issues about storage, but they can be addressed. What Tetra Pak does with the products, once collection is done, is carry out its own remanufacture of 100% of the materials—the aluminium, the plastics and the pulp of cardboard is remanufactured by Tetra Pak and put into other products. That just shows what can be done, and we urge the Minister to look at that.
The UK clearly needs to ensure that there is continued research into the chemical composition of paint and how it can be reused. We know that the paint that is currently remanufactured is mainly water-based paint, and therefore we need to look at the science behind paint to ensure that we can recycle an increasing amount of the material. That is an important part of this—putting money into research is so important in the whole waste sector. Likewise, there is an onus to deal with packaging for paint—the paint containers can often be appropriately recycled, but at the moment they themselves end up in landfill, which is a blight on our environment.
We have heard that only 1% of paint products are reused and 1% are remanufactured. Just 2% are reutilised; 98% go to waste. That is a very poor statistic, and having a 5% obligation on local authorities through their procurement processes would be a good way to start to move the agenda forward.
We also have to look at the opportunities for reusing paint. We have heard that there are lots of opportunities for local authorities to be in touch with local projects and voluntary sector organisations that could really benefit from that as opposed to having to budget for paint. If such projects are properly managed, they could be scaled up nationally, not just focused on locally, to support voluntary organisations and other community interest companies to reuse paint.
I observed a couple of weeks ago a fresh pot of paint being used on external boarding around a building site and thought, “Actually, that could be reused or recycled paint that has been collected from elsewhere.” We know that there is a lot of waste, and that adds to the on-costs of projects. Dialogue could therefore take place not just with the voluntary sector but with the construction trade, where there could be real opportunities in looking at how organisations could use remanufactured and leftover paint. If we are going to see an expansion in the construction industry, there is certainly an opportunity to reuse such products and ensure that they do not go to landfill.
People probably do not know much about remanufactured paint, but it is around 25% to 30% reused paint, to which new paint is added. There is an opportunity for remanufactured paint to be available on the market, perhaps at a reduced cost. That could address some issues around inequality and help to move paint on an industrial scale. There are opportunities that we can look at to address that issue.
I want to raise the issue of why paint ends up in incinerators or landfill at all. What I will say about paint applies to so many other products; this is about the whole approach that the Government need to take—whether it is about organic material or manufactured goods—to the whole issue of the circular economy, and why it is so important to mainstream the circular economy into manufacturing processes, everyday public sector use and the way we think and operate as a country.
Yesterday, in another debate, I mentioned the research that is being undertaken into how we mitigate sending anything whatever to landfill and move away from incineration. The techniques of chemically breaking down materials or autoclaving them with high-pressure steam enable waste products to be separated into raw products in different ways, so that a far higher proportion of the components of the original material can be put to alternative use. Those components can be put back into manufacturing processes or even put into energy production. I know that work is being undertaken on how paint can be reused in products such as load-bearing concrete, which was mentioned by Sir Paul Beresford, who I am sorry to see is no longer in his place. It is important that we look at all options for repurposing paint.
Investment in research on those processes is vital to prevent so much more from ending up in landfill. As I mentioned yesterday, the Biorenewables Development Centre just outside York, a project that has sprung from the University of York, is looking at how we can mitigate waste altogether. That is of huge interest to me, and I know that it will also interest the Minister, given her background. I urge her to look at the opportunities that are being created through the research that is being carried out and try to bring that agenda back into the mainstream.
Ahead of next week’s autumn statement, I note the call from the British Coatings Federation and PaintCare for remanufactured paint not to be subject to VAT. Not only has VAT been paid previously on part of the product, but that would result in a narrowing of price margins between remanufactured paint and new paint. That seems a sensible incentive, and I trust that the Minister will raise that with the Treasury ahead of the autumn statement.
This has been an interesting debate. I have to say that I did not know we could debate the reuse of paint in such depth, but it springs into so many other agendas. I trust that the Minister will embrace the circular economy, as the Opposition do. I know that she has some issues with it, including its name, but it is being promoted heavily and the concepts are good and right for our future. It is right for our environment, after all. I therefore trust that she can move on from that position to ensure that we see the research and long-term funding that are needed.
I make one final plea in light of the uncertainty about the future and our relationship with Europe. Many of the research projects that are currently being carried out are funded by the EU and involve relationships that have been built between academia and industry across Europe. I would like to see the Minister get behind those projects and ensure not only that they continue, even if that takes us beyond 2020, but that those relationships are sustained into the future and that we will be able to take forward many more initiatives to ensure that our environment is safe.
I thank Angela Smith for leading this debate on the circular economy for leftover paint. I am off script now, but I also want to thank my officials for doing their best to produce an interesting speech. This issue clearly matters, but let us try to spice it up a bit with some real candour.
We have all been through the ritual when doing DIY of going to B&Q, Homebase or whatever, doing the painting and ending up with half a tin of paint that simply is not used. Being the good people that we are, we do not like to throw anything away, because we may need to touch it up again later. That has led to the situation that has already been described. The average UK household has six cans of leftover paint stored in their home, and surveys show that people buy more than they need. I agree strongly with Alan Brown that a lot of focus needs to be put on consumers thinking about what they actually need to paint the rooms that they are looking to decorate. I am afraid I do not think a website will particularly help with that, so there is a lot to be said for retailers and manufacturers being proactive in their discussions with customers and promotion of products.
Only a small proportion of leftover paint is remanufactured, despite the economic and environmental benefits that it is suggested that could deliver. The all-party sustainable resource group and the all-party parliamentary group on manufacturing have produced some interesting reports, including the “Triple Win” report, which Mr Sheerman co-authored. PaintCare’s report “Creating a circular economy for leftover decorative paint in the UK” was launched about a year ago. Both those reports offer suggestions about how to increase the opportunity for this market.
Like others, I do not really like the phrase “circular economy”—I am more into thinking about being resource efficient—but I accept that it has become the lingua franca. There are opportunities to make money; one person’s waste can be another person’s raw materials. It is important that we do our best to make best use of materials and resources and keep them in circulation for longer, wherever that makes sense for the environment, the economy and society as a whole. I would argue that the market and businesses already get that, especially in an age when precious resources are increasingly scarce and regulatory frameworks and fiscal challenges promote the reuse of products rather than the use of virgin raw materials.
I accept that if we are to achieve the transition to a circular economy, innovation is essential—not only the development of efficient new business models but the innovations to which Rachael Maskell referred. I will bring to the attention of my hon. Friends in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy the research project and the institute that she mentioned, but she will be aware of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor’s comments about Horizon 2020 projects and his intention for the United Kingdom to remain engaged in those—and indeed our own funding streams—on the basis of value for money.
One of the concerns from both academia and from where there is applied research is that 2020 is only just round the corner. People are now looking beyond 2020, to what their futures are. Although I heard what the Chancellor said, it is important that we look to the future and give further guarantees to ensure that projects continue.
I recognise what the hon. Lady says, but it is not unusual for a Government to talk about the spending envelope for which they have responsibility. I am not privy to what will be in the autumn statement next week or in future Budgets, but given that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has talked keenly about the need for future investment and having innovation as a key priority, I am sure the hon. Lady and I will both be listening with interest to what he has to say next week.
The hon. Lady also referred to VAT. She knows it goes against EU law to not charge VAT. A considerable battle was eloquently championed by her hon. Friend Paula Sherriff, among others, to try to secure zero rates for certain products, but who knows what the future holds once we leave the EU or what the future of VAT will be?
I apologise for not being here at the start of the debate, Mr Brady. I was making an application to the Backbench Business Committee for another debate.
Is the Minister aware of the report by WRAP—Waste and Resources Action Programme—which claims that by 2030 the circular economy sector could require an extra 205,000 jobs, but that if we embarked on what it calls a transformational scenario, whereby we are incredibly ambitious about it, it could create more than half a million jobs? Does she feel this is something that can simply be left to the market or should we be far more proactive? It would also potentially offset about 18% of the future job losses expected in skilled employment, so it could be of real benefit.
The good news is that this Government have successfully created more jobs than the rest of the European Union put together over the last six years. I am not aware of the unemployment forecasts the hon. Lady is referring to. I have no doubt that new and efficient profit-making business models will create jobs. The Government are currently negotiating with the rest of the European Union on the circular economy package, so there is an element of the regulatory framework that may create incentives. However, Governments often create regulations that prevent the circular economy from functioning as effectively as the markets coming up with those opportunities. Often, regulation gets in the way.
In DEFRA we have been working constructively with organisations such as the British Coatings Federation on making better use of leftover paint, including identifying potential regulatory barriers to its recycling and remanufacture and how those might be overcome. We welcome the federation’s voluntary initiative, PaintCare, which aims to promote the reuse or remanufacturing of about 20 million litres of paint that would otherwise end up being disposed of. It is good to see the paint industry seeking to resolve this waste problem through creative thinking and working in partnership.
As the PaintCare initiative has developed, DEFRA has been looking at the regulatory barriers. As part of that, the Environment Agency is providing detailed guidance to determine the parameters within which materials such as leftover paint can meet end-of-waste criteria, through its IsItWaste tool. The agency will continue to work with such programmes and businesses to facilitate the development of operations to encourage further reuse of valuable materials.
We are aware of the challenges with many household waste recycling centres not accepting paint for recycling. The PaintCare report points out that councils face various challenges with that. DEFRA is engaged in regular discussions with the Department for Communities and Local Government about providing effective household waste and recycling services, but it is for local authorities to decide the best disposal options for paint and other materials, based on what options and facilities are available locally and what the market generates.
I was about to answer the hon. Lady’s point about the postcode lottery and wanting a universal system. She gave the interesting example of how Tetra Pak, which is subject to elements of extended producer responsibility, came forward with its special process to try to make sure that as many Tetra Pak cartons as possible are collected. The EPR principle does not currently apply to paint, but perhaps it should. Instead of putting the onus on—dare I say it?— councils and central Government, perhaps the paint manufacturers themselves should think about how they start to ensure that paint is collected in every local authority area, which would then help them to reuse it in remanufacturing and similar.
On pricing, I was surprised when I suddenly detected some conservative notes from the hon. Member for York Central. She is absolutely right that one of the best ways to shift remanufactured paint would be for it to be cheaper than standard paint, and people can feel virtuous about it as well. I recognise that that is not as straightforward as it sounds, because the process needs investment and so on. Nevertheless, there are ways to encourage people to do things, often by pricing.
Through WRAP, guidance is provided to local authorities, including options for best practice when dealing with paint through reuse schemes such as Community RePaint, which I am sure hon. Members are aware of. It is a UK-wide network of more than 60 community-run paint reuse projects. However, the numbers are limited and quite a lot of them are concentrated in certain parts of the country. Perhaps we will want to consider not only encouraging manufacturers but good local schemes to come forward.
I want to come back to the relationship between central Government and local authorities, because we clearly have a problem at the moment. Only 2% is reused or remanufactured, yet we know the potential in the industry is huge. What interventions will the Government make to support local authorities to be able to increase beyond the 2%?
To be candid, I am not sure that central Government are going to do anything apart from what I have already described in relation to the WRAP guidance and the Environment Agency. I personally believe we should try to reduce the amount of paint coming into the system in the first place. We need a better consumer understanding of how much paint is needed to paint a room. People should be able to take the room measurements to the shop and easily calculate how many litres are needed. That is the best way to prevent the problem in the first place.
The circular economy is not an either/or strategy; it is both. It is about having active interventions to drive an agenda forward. We have a real problem with paint, as we have heard so eloquently put this afternoon. The Government standing back and saying they will make no further interventions means that local authorities will never have the means to move the agenda forward, so I press the Minister again about what interventions she is prepared to make to progress the circular economy around this issue.
I have already answered the hon. Lady. I have said what I was going to say. From what she has said, I take it she agrees that perhaps having extended producer responsibility on the paint industry might be the way to go. That is not currently being considered by the EU in the circular economy package, but perhaps we will consider it when we leave the EU. The concept of extended producer responsibility is about trying to reduce waste and recovering the cost of waste. The Government have supported a pilot paint reuse project in Cheshire. We have provided more than £30,000 in match funding through the innovation in waste prevention fund.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
It is a pleasure to resume the debate. I was pointing out how the Government have supported a pilot paint reuse project in Cheshire with more than £30,000 of match funding through the innovation and waste prevention fund. That project involves local charities and work with the local recycling centres and housing associations to increase paint donation and minimise disposal. The provision of clearly marked paint collection containers, the training of recycling centre staff to sort paint and advise the public, and an awareness-raising campaign led to 23.5 tonnes of paint being collected, which is more than double the original target of 11.4 tonnes. The reuse rate was also much higher than anticipated, with 78% of the donated paint—more than 18 tonnes—being reused and only 22% needing to be disposed of.
WRAP will publish a summary of the project and lessons learnt along with a video case study next year. That shows there was an opportunity for other people to use the leftover product. In that case it was housing associations, but in other cases it could be the construction trade, to which the hon. Member for York Central referred earlier.
A question was asked about Government procurement. Government buying standards do not currently include remanufactured paint, and DEFRA and other Departments do not purchase a great deal of paint directly; contractors who undertake work on the Government’s behalf tend to purchase the paint. Overall, the Government’s policy commitment is to buy sustainably, which is set out in “Greening Government Commitments”, and Government procurement officers will take account of that when buying more sustainable and efficient products and getting suppliers to understand the need to reduce the impacts of the supply chain.
Industry-led initiatives such as PaintCare are important if we are to achieve the vision of a more resource-efficient circular economy.
I will not.
We must make the best use of resources in a way that supports growth and protects the environment and human health, as has already been said. The industry’s proactive action so far should be supported by an efficient and effective regulatory framework. That is why we are working with the industry to look at regulatory barriers. As I have already indicated, the Government are undertaking some projects through WRAP or the Environment Agency to try to stimulate admittedly modest changes, but I genuinely believe that the real impetus will come from the industry, whether that is about establishing a wider network for recovering paint or helping consumers generate less waste in the first place.
This has been an important debate. The hon. Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge will be delighted to know that I have started to use the phrase “the circular economy”. I recognise what she said: it is sometimes limiting. However, I assure her and others that businesses—especially high-value businesses—are clear that recycling and recovering materials is an important part of helping the environment, and it makes sense commercially. To that end, I thank all those who participated in the debate.
This has been an interesting opportunity to air the issues relating to paint. The Minister seemed to indicate—I am sure she did not mean it this way—that this is a rather boring topic. The old saying is that something is “like watching paint dry”, but most people use paint decoratively to make life better, not worse, to cheer themselves up and make their homes look brighter and nicer to live in. I therefore think that paint, and the paint and coverings industry, is an important part of our everyday lives and plays a significant part, too, in our economy. I contest the view that paint is a niche topic or that it is not really something that should engage the interests of parliamentarians.
The role of Government in our economy is increasingly clear—they have acknowledged it with the industrial strategy they have promised to develop—so I was surprised to an extent by the Minister’s remarks, which, in summary, were focused on a hands-off approach to the development of the circular economy and the work being done by the coatings industry in particular. I recognise that the Minister supports the work being done by the industry and that many of the efforts of Government have been delivered through WRAP and the environment agency. Nevertheless, the feeling was, “It is up to the industry and consumers, and the industry working with consumers, to deliver what the industry is looking for.”
Developing the remanufactured paint aspect of the industry is not just about supply and demand, pricing and markets. It is actually about confidence in the recycling process and the quality of what is produced. One of the reasons why the industry is keen to see Government take on a 5% target for procurement is that it would send a strong signal to consumers more generally, both commercial and domestic, that that paint is worth buying, worth using and serves a valuable purpose. I think that the Minister missed that point in her response.
I would also compare the Minister’s response with what we heard from Ministers in what was the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which we now call the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy or BEIS—I cannot get my head around that acronym—in relation to other manufacturing processes. In the steel industry, the message about procurement has been heard, and procurement rules have been changed not just for steel but for the benefit of manufacturing more generally. On top of that, real efforts have been made to enable the steel industry to develop extra capacity to meet future demand. For instance, in relation to shale gas, there are projects, I believe supported by Government, to ensure that UK steel can—if possible—take advantage of that developing industry. It is really disappointing to hear that kind of commitment on the one hand, and the lack of commitment we have heard today on the other.
The point about jobs is moot. We do not really know whether any extra jobs will be created, in terms of recycling and remanufacturing paint, because we do not know whether the overall demand in the UK would increase. The Government believe that exporting—building free, international trade—is our way out of Brexit and, even without Brexit, that would be the way to grow our economy. I actually believe that that is correct. On that basis, it is absolutely right that we should expand our economic activity. We should consider manufacturing more paint but, when doing so, we should maximise our resources. I do not accept the argument that there is not necessarily any job potential in that kind of initiative, because the more that we can produce and export, and the more that we can produce paint and coverings material sustainably, the better it is for UK plc.
On household waste recycling centres, I was particularly disappointed. When it comes to plastic, paper and glass, we no longer expect consumers or industry to take responsibility for the collection of those waste materials. That job is now with the local authorities, and local authorities up and down the country are working with the recycling industry—companies such as Viridor—to ensure that that material is collected properly, sorted and processed and then used for the purpose of making new materials.
In a moment. On that basis, it is absolutely inexplicable to suggest that consumers or industry should take responsibility for waste materials. I take the point entirely, and I made it myself, that paint use should be reduced wherever possible, but there will always be a quantity of leftover paint. Different people paint in different ways, believe it or not. There will always be a market for collecting paint for recycling, and on that basis it is hard to understand why the Minister seems to think that dumping waste paint in general waste, which is actually illegal, is something for the industry to think about. I accept that it is the consumers’ responsibility, but we need to make it easier for consumers to dispose of their waste paint sustainably. I give way to the Minister.
I cannot intervene on a closing contribution.
Okay. Finally, I will go back to procurement. The Minister admitted that buying sustainably is at the heart of the Government’s procurement strategy. In that sense, it is really hard to understand why the Government cannot make a simple commitment to a 5% target. It is not a particularly ambitious target; it is a fairly sensible, modest target. If the Government sent out a clear signal to all of those public sector bodies that procure and use paint—prisons, schools, hospitals and so on—that they expect 5% of paint and coatings orders to be made up of remanufactured paint, that in itself would help to send out a signal to the market that this is a serious business that is capable of growing in the future.
I have to say that I have been very disappointed indeed with the Minister’s response. I would have thought that an industry that is so important to UK plc—I gave the statistics earlier—is not being given more support by the Government. We have illustrated in the debate that it is doing everything it can itself to ensure that it becomes more sustainable, that it reduces waste and that it absolutely makes the most of the resources that are wasted at the end of the day. The Government are doing very little to support that industry, and in the context of Brexit, that is very disappointing indeed.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House
has considered the circular economy for leftover paint.