To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his Department's target for the percentage of household waste that could be recycled using (a) source separation and (b) mechanised separation; and if he will make a statement.
Our aim is to recycle 50 per cent. of the useful content of household waste by the end of the century. Achieving that will depend on the right mix of collection and sorting facilities in each area for each waste stream and, above all, on encouraging the market for recycled materials and identifying the environmental benefits of recycling and the real costs of alternatives, such as disposal to landfill.
Has my hon. Friend heard the news that Birmingham city council, in co-operation with the private sector, is managing to recycle 92 per cent. of domestic waste without the need for separation? I thank my hon. Friend for visiting my constituency to see for himself the work done in that respect by Test Valley borough council. What measures does the Department have in mind to encourage local authorities, either with cash or in kind, to recycle more domestic waste?
I know of the scheme that my hon. Friend mentioned, and it sounds very interesting. Test Valley borough council has an excellent record of recycling. I can offer an additional incentive, in that I shall be introducing a new provision into the Environmental Protection Bill allowing waste disposal authorities to pass on to waste collection authorities such as Test Valley the financial credit for avoiding landfill costs by recycling waste instead.
Does the Minister accept that Greater Manchester waste disposal authority has done extremely well with its experiments in the mechanical separation of waste? However, the move from an experimental to a permanent basis will depend on the price that it can obtain for reclaimed materials. What steps are the Government taking to ensure a guaranteed price for reclaimed paper and plastics?
I have heard of that scheme. I have no theoretical preference for separation at source or the later mechanical separation that he mentioned. We are undertaking a number of experiments to see which is the best system. Most recycling makes economic and environmental sense. The Environmental Protection Bill will have the longer-term effect of raising the cost of landfill, which gives added economic incentives to recycling.
Does my hon. Friend agree that in creating a market for recycled products—in particular waste paper—it is important to set an example? Will he have a word with colleagues in other Departments to encourage them to use recycled paper, as the Department of the Environment does?
Yes, Sir. That is under active consideration in all Government Departments. I confirm that my Department uses recycled paper for all correspondence, and I hope that hon. Members will consider using recycled paper for their correspondence from the House.