Today is Earth Day, an initiative that has been running now every year since 1970 and promotes engagement, awareness and individual action for our environment. The Government continue their own engagement with countries around the world in the build-up to COP26 in Glasgow later this year. As part of that programme, next Monday, along with the World Bank, I will be hosting the first dialogue on sustainable agriculture, setting out how changes to agriculture policy can incentivise regenerative agriculture and enhance environmental assets in the farmed landscape.
Given that food waste accounts for 19% of the UK’s landfill and that even the proposed targets in the Environment Bill to separate household food waste collections are unlikely to eliminate food waste in landfill by 2030, is it not time that his Department considered a food waste to landfill ban in England for food waste businesses that produce more than 5 kg of food waste per week?
We are obviously looking at this very carefully through our waste resources strategy and through the provisions in the Environment Bill. We will require local authorities to collect food waste through our consistent collections policy; that is an area that we are consulting on at the moment. Obviously, once food waste is collected separately we can treat it separately, and that could involve anaerobic digesters and other ways of dealing with this waste other than landfill.
As I said earlier, I had meetings in March with both the Home Secretary and the Chancellor on this particular issue. We have set up a pet theft taskforce that is investigating it and, in particular, gathering the evidence to understand the scale of the
The year 2020 was the warmest year on record: more habitats were lost; more species were facing extinction; and more raw sewage was pumped into our nation’s rivers, seemingly without consequence for the water companies involved. On Earth Day, will the Secretary of State commit to take fast action against water companies that are pumping raw sewage into our rivers, killing fish, killing habitats and killing birds, and do so while committing to no further roll-back of environmental protections?
I have already acted in this area. The Department has established a taskforce to look at combined sewer overflows, which are one of the key sources of sewage pollution, and we are also putting a real focus on tackling sewage incidents in our future water strategy, which will inform Ofwat’s approach to the pricing reviews that it has with water companies.
I very much agree with my hon. Friend on this matter. As he will be aware, the Environment Bill introduces the concept of extended producer responsibility, and we are consulting on that at the moment. In future, the manufacturers and the users of packaging for products will take responsibility for recycling it.
This is obviously a contentious area. However, energy from waste can be a way of extracting some use from it. It is often preferable to landfill and often has lower carbon implications because some energy can be generated from it. Nevertheless, there are some environmental concerns around this. That is why in England the Environment Agency has to authorise and license any such facility.
My hon. Friend makes an important point. Fly-tipping has become a scourge in recent years. It has become a growing problem, with organised gangs behind some of these waste crime incidents. We have already taken action to improve our surveillance and to improve the traceability of some of these products so that we can trace them back to the source that they came from and bring those responsible to justice.
The Government monitor household spending on food very closely, and we agree that we want to raise earnings among the lowest paid. That is why it has been a long-standing policy of this Government to first introduce a national living wage and then increase it incrementally year on year, and we have done that to take the lowest paid out of poverty. As a result of that policy, household spending on food among the poorest households has actually fallen from about 16% to under 15%, which is the lowest on record.
I commend the work that my hon. Friend and those local volunteers are doing. We have our flood resilience forums around the country. The Environment Agency works with local government on them and on putting them in place so that communities can improve their resilience. More broadly, we have an ambitious capital programme of more than £5 billion over the next five years to invest in flood defences and to protect communities such as his.
I am not sure that is what my hon. Friend said earlier, but she was making the point that since there is no safe limit of particulate matter and PM2.5, what we should be doing is focusing on additional measures such as overall population exposure, and that is indeed something we are looking at through the target-setting process in the Environment Bill.