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Recycling

Volume 647: debated on Thursday 18 October 2018

Recycling has been increasing since 2010. Over 70% of packaging has been recycled or recovered, which is ahead of the EU target of 60%, and the figure for plastic packaging, at 45%, is double the EU target. England’s household recycling rate has also continued to increase, but we need to do more. We will be publishing our resources and waste strategy shortly.

I am sure the whole House will wish to join me in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Holly Lynch) on the birth of her beautiful baby boy, James, a couple of weeks ago.

Fashion should not cost the earth, but every year 300,000 tonnes of garments are disposed into landfill. Will the Minister ensure that the forthcoming resources and waste strategy includes something to force clothing producers to take account of the end use of the garments that they produce?

I know that is the subject of an inquiry that the hon. Lady’s Environmental Audit Committee is undertaking at the moment. The Government, with our partner the Waste and Resources Action Programme, have been working with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation on this issue, and I am sure she will recognise how it is being addressed.

It is important to improve recycling rates in areas such as on-the-go packaging. Does the Minister agree that in this area it is better to extend the existing packaging recovery note system, which keeps funds within the system for improvement, recycling and restructuring, than to introduce an expensive deposit return scheme in which funds will be lost, including on reverse vending machines that cost up to £32,000 each?

My hon. Friend has great experience of the packaging industry, so I know he speaks with authority. We are reforming the PRN system, but we also believe the deposit return scheme is an appropriate way to increase the amount of recycling and to reduce littering. That will, however, be subject to consultation.

If I can encourage the hon. Member for City of Durham (Dr Blackman-Woods) to overcome any unnecessary shyness, and in light of the fact that we are not likely to reach question 13, I would say to her that her question is very similar to this question, so perhaps she would like to make her point now.

13. I was hoping we would get to question 7, but thank you very much, Mr Speaker. In July this year, the National Audit Office produced a report that was very critical of DEFRA’s oversight of the scheme, which sends half of all our mostly plastic recycling material abroad, mainly to China. With China indicating that it intends to stop the importation of solid and plastic waste, what is DEFRA going to do? How is it going to massively reduce plastic waste in this country, and when will we see the resources and waste strategy? (907149)

Plastic waste exports happen because overseas processers recognise the value of how it can be used. I am conscious that plastic with a certain contamination level no longer goes to China. Other countries have taken it up, but of course we want more to be recycled here in the UK. The hon. Lady will see more in our resources and waste strategy, which will be published very soon.

Disposable nappies have become a consumer convenience. I am very pleased that Procter & Gamble has invested in technology, which we see in Italy. We are encouraging it to bring it here, not only for disposable nappies but other forms of absorbent hygiene products. We can do something about this, but I am not convinced that we will be seeing an end to the disposable nappy any time soon.

One of the barriers to the successful recycling of plastic is that many simple packaging materials are actually made up of composite plastic with a number of polymers, which is particularly difficult to recycle. Will the Minister consider bringing in regulations to simplify this packaging?

I am pleased to say that the Government have been working with a mixture of organisations, retailers and manufacturers to try to simplify the polymers that are being used. Technical innovations will need to happen, but I am confident that some good news will be coming out very shortly.