Britain’s waste and recycling sector is valued at more than £12 billion, employs 120,000 to 150,000 people and is forecast to grow by between 3% and 5% per annum over the next seven years. The waste review set us on the path to a zero-waste economy. It will support the sector’s transition from focusing on disposal to landfill to the greater reuse, recycling and recovery of waste material.
If the Secretary of State adopted a 70% recycling target, as the Welsh Assembly has, an extra 50,000 private sector jobs could be created over the next four or five years. Why does England have a lower recycling target than Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland? It has the weakest targets in the UK.
As I have explained before, targets in specific areas can play a role in achieving a zero-waste economy, but they can produce perverse consequences. I recently attended the Waste and Resources Action Programme conference, where it was clear that the waste industry feels that one of the things that has driven innovation and change is the landfill tax. There is no question but that the new capacity through new technology to recycle more materials is an engine of growth in the economy.
I should like to press the Secretary of State a little further on recycling, particularly on the recycling of packaging, because the Government have been too timid in their packaging recycling targets so far. We have been promised a consultation this year on more ambitious targets from 2013 onwards. We are nearly in December, so will she tell us when that will happen?
I think that the hon. Lady would agree that the Courtauld commitment has helped, through voluntary agreements with different sectors of the economy, significantly to increase recycling targets. We have recently concluded new responsibility deals on packaging with the hospitality and catering sector. As part of that ongoing progress, I remain committed to the Courtauld process further extending into the community, and of course we will consult shortly on new opportunities as they arise.
The incoherence of those two answers serves as testament to the fact that the waste review comes from a Department of missed opportunity. Put simply, green growth creates jobs. The economy is in dire straits. Growth has flatlined; confidence has tanked; and 1 million young people stand unemployed. My question is simple: what will the Secretary of State do about it?
The hon. Gentleman clearly was not listening to the fact that the waste industry is a bright star in the economy, with growth rates of 3% to 5% per annum. One of the reasons the industry is so successful is the constant stream of entrepreneurship and innovation, as we increasingly see waste as resource. There is continuous progress in this area, and I think that he would agree that the landfill tax has been an important regulatory driver in helping to encourage that innovation.