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Recycling

Volume 530: debated on Thursday 30 June 2011

I commend the right hon. Lady for her long-standing commitment to this issue. Our waste review set out our ambition to move from a throwaway society to a zero-waste economy. This includes maximising the recycling of waste that cannot be prevented or reused from households and businesses. We will work with local authorities and the waste management industry to make it easier for everyone to recycle, whether at home, at work or on the go.

Just a year ago the Secretary of State said of recycling:

“We need to go faster and we need to go further.”

So is it the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government who has crushed her ambition and vetoed a target for recycling in this country? Having won the battle over fortnightly bin collections, why does she not now adopt Friends of the Earth’s target of halving black sack waste by 2020, thus reducing costs and creating jobs?

I support the scale of the ambition of Friends of the Earth’s target, and we are of course bound by an EU target to recycle 50% of household refuse, but if targets are too specific they can be distorting, driving councils to meet centrally imposed indicators instead of doing what is best for their local circumstances. A good example of that was the landfill allowance trading scheme, which led to the anomaly of disincentivising the recycling of business waste.

My right hon. Friend might be aware of the problem of heavily soiled films used on farms being exported to China as clean waste, rather than being put into the recycling process in this country. What action can she take to stop these illegal exports?

If it is illegal, it is important that we take legal sanctions to prevent it. Whenever possible, we want to see our own waste industry growing. At present it is projected to grow at 4% per annum, and there is no lack of ambition in the industry to deal more effectively with all forms of waste that we can treat in this country.

The lack of ambition belongs entirely to the Secretary of State. The Sunday Times called the Government’s waste review a “sloppy, flyblown mess” hamstrung by Tory dogma. The Welsh Government have adopted a 70% recycling rate, which will create 50,000 new jobs by 2025, yet in England this Government have abandoned recycling targets. Will the Secretary of State tell the House why she has scrapped recycling targets for England? Will she also publish an assessment of how many English jobs will not now be created, and how much investment in the waste industry will not now be made, as a result of her decision?

That is a gross distortion of our waste review. The hon. Gentleman should not rely on newspapers to give him a guide to what is in it; he should take the trouble to read the real thing. Have I not just said that we expect the waste industry to grow by 4% per annum? We have not scrapped recycling targets; we are committed to EU targets for recycling. In addition, we have more ambition with regard to landfill, which exceeds the ambition of the previous Government and involves proposals not to bury metal and wood in landfill.