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Packaging

Volume 479: debated on Thursday 17 July 2008

13. What progress has been made in increasing producer responsibility for packaging, as referred to in his Department’s framework for pro-environmental behaviours. (219299)

Earlier this year, I raised the packaging recovery targets for 2008, 2009 and 2010, which came into force on 14 March. The targets for 2008 have been set to ensure that the UK meets the current EU targets. Targets post-2008 are designed to ensure continued compliance with the EU and to reflect ambitions outlined in the Government’s waste strategy.

The document referred to in my question—the Department’s framework for pro-environmental behaviours—makes only one reference to packaging. It is one line on page 49, which says the Government will seek to

“increase producer responsibility for packaging,”

despite the fact that only 3 per cent. of all the material that goes to landfill is packaging and, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, recovery targets have been increased. The difficulty for the industry is that it now cannot recycle much of the material collected, because it is of such poor quality. Will she take that on board and, with her colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government, try to improve the possibility of recycling better materials?

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his work on packaging, which is very important. The reason why we must pay a lot of attention to packaging is that in many cases it is avoidable. The public believe that it is avoidable, and they want something done about it. So we will not resile from that. We recently produced information through WRAP—the Waste and Resources Action Programme—which is the Government-funded organisation that deals with waste, that shows us that in the current market, kerbside sorting is more effective for local authorities than single co-mingling, and that costs are similar if two streams are co-mingled but paper is kept separate. So local authorities can benefit from kerbside separation. Kerbside sort achieves the higher-quality recyclates that my hon. Friend wants to see produced. So we are providing a great deal of assistance to local authorities and giving them advice. Contrary to the popular belief that co-mingling is the easiest thing for consumers, we have found that the size of bins matters in determining how much consumers recycle. We will not hesitate to try to get better recycling quality and levels from our local authorities, because that is what our citizens want.