It is important to do whatever we can to recycle as much waste as possible, but waste incineration plants continue to play an important role in generating energy instead of diverting waste to landfill. However, our assessment is that additional residual waste energy capacity above that already planned to 2020 should not be needed if we achieve our recycling targets.
Further to that welcome reply, has the Minister seen the recent report from independent consultants Eunomia? It indicates that we will indeed have enough waste incineration capacity to deal with our country’s residual waste and that if we build more incinerators, the danger is that waste will be diverted from recycling.
I have not seen that report, but the hon. Gentleman will be aware that we discussed this matter in his recent Westminster Hall debate. It is important to say that we are still making progress to ensure that we achieve our recycling targets, but incineration by default is certainly not the answer that we want to promote.
The Minister will know that Wales recycles more than any other part of the UK, with ambitious targets and a new £6 million fund to help businesses become plastic free. Should the Government not learn from Wales, given that they are flatlining on their own targets?
As the Minister knows, the level of recycling in England rose from around 7% in 1997 to around 44% in 2011, but it has flatlined since then. Much of the incentive for the increase in recycling during those years came from avoiding the landfill tax, and Government capital grants for increasing recycling were balanced by landfill tax receipts. However, now that most household waste is incinerated, those incentives no longer apply. The “Our waste, our resources” strategy states:
“Should wider policies not deliver the Government’s waste ambitions in the long-term, we will consider the introduction of a tax on the incineration”.
Will the Minister tell us how many more years of flatlining it will take before she is willing to make that consideration?
The landfill tax has been important in reducing landfill. As I have just said, we are consulting on measures that build on the resources and waste strategy that we published a few months ago. We have been quite clear that we must ensure that we increase recycling, and we will take further measures if incineration is still proving part of the problem.