Skip to main content

Energy Recovery (Waste Incineration)

Volume 447: debated on Thursday 22 June 2006

Our recent consultation paper on waste policy envisaged that energy from waste would deal with up to 27 per cent. of municipal waste by 2020. The extent to which energy from waste can contribute to our renewable energy targets is being considered as part of the Government’s current energy review.

I am grateful for that reply. My constituents are concerned about the proposals for expansion in respect of incinerators—they are particularly conscious of the neighbouring Edmonton incinerator. Given the proposals for a threefold increase in their number over 15 years, what are the Government’s proposals in terms of harnessing and utilising energy from incineration plants?

They are not proposals yet; they are merely suggestions in a consultation document. If proposals come, they will do so when we publish the new strategy in the autumn.

I acknowledge that in the past there was public concern about incineration—although, to be frank, I think that some of it was based on outdated fears about potential dangers from incineration. We have climate change concerns, and there is no doubt that good waste-to-energy technology is better for the environment and our climate change targets than sending waste to landfill. The fact is that we will need a lot more waste-to-energy and recycling—those steps go together in every other European country, and there is no reason why they should not do so here, too.

Are there lessons to be learned from Scandinavian countries that are moving away from recycling towards combined heat and power, thereby providing domestic houses and local businesses with cheaper forms of heating from distance warming? Those countries care deeply about the environment, and they assure their public that there are minimum—perhaps zero—particles. Why can we not adopt the same system in this country?

The hon. Lady is right that there is huge potential for combined heat and power—and also for energy from waste, as the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Burrowes) suggested. However, she is wrong to suggest that countries on the continent are moving away from recycling. In percentage terms, there may be a slight downward trend in their domestic recycling, but they are still far ahead of us in terms of how much they recycle. I can give the hon. Lady the figures: in Sweden, for example, the recycling rate is 38 per cent. and 45 per cent. for waste-to-energy. Although our recycling levels have trebled under this Labour Government, they are still down at only about 25 per cent.

As part of my hon. Friend’s consultation exercise on waste reduction, will he have a look at the unit in Coventry, which serves the major part of the west midlands?

I cannot promise my hon. Friend that I will have the opportunity to visit the unit to which he refers, but I will certainly make sure that my officials provide me with a full report on the contribution that it is making.

Surely one way to overcome the difficulties associated with the public’s buying into incineration is for Government to insist that companies use more recycled material, so that we do not have to pursue a future involving incineration.

The hon. Gentleman makes an extremely good point. A week ago, a report was published—he may have missed it, as a lot is going on in this House and in government in general—by the Sustainable Procurement Task Force, which is chaired by Sir Neville Simms. In its action plan, the taskforce will look at increasing significantly the proportion of recycled materials sourced by companies.