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Waste Management

Volume 692: debated on Thursday 24 May 2007

My Lords, with permission, I shall repeat a Statement made earlier today in the other place by the Secretary of State regarding waste strategy. The Statement is as follows:

“With permission, I should like to make a Statement about the Government’s waste strategy for England, which I am publishing today. Copies are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. Each year we generate about 100 million tonnes of waste from households, commerce and industry combined. Most of this currently ends up in landfill, where biodegradable waste generates methane, one of the most powerful greenhouse gases, accounting for about 3 per cent of UK greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, much valuable energy is used up in making new products which are later disposed of, also contributing to climate change.

“We need, therefore, not only to recycle and reuse waste but to prevent it in the first place. The waste strategy published in 2000 has delivered a step change in performance. Twenty-seven per cent of household waste collected by local authorities in 2005-06 was recycled or composted, compared with only 7.5 per cent 10 years earlier. Recycling of packaging waste has doubled to 56 per cent over the same 10 years. There has been a 9 per cent fall in waste being landfilled between 2001 and 2005, and household waste is now growing much less quickly than the economy at about 0.5 per cent per year.

“Despite this progress, England’s waste performance still lags well behind much of the rest of Europe. Other countries landfill far less and recycle and recover energy from waste much more. But all countries face a challenge in reducing the growth of waste and it is waste reduction which produces the greatest environmental benefits.

“This strategy sets out national standards, while increasing local flexibility over how to achieve them. It provides a range of tools for individuals, businesses and local authorities to do the job.

“Our key objectives set out in the new strategy are simple: less waste, more reuse and recycling, more energy from waste and less landfill. Each part of society can play a part in achieving these objectives. The first step is for producers and retailers to help prevent waste and to take greater responsibility for ensuring waste is recycled. We have identified key waste materials where waste can be reduced or recycled, including paper, plastics, glass, wood, aluminium, textiles and food. To achieve this, we are establishing voluntary agreements with industries to reduce and recycle waste. For example, there are more than 350 million pieces of unaddressed direct mail every year, so we have agreed with the direct mail organisation to make arrangements for individuals to opt out of mail of this sort, and we will consider an approach where people get direct mail, addressed or unaddressed, only if they choose to receive it. We will also reduce the environmental impact of carrier bags by 25 per cent in the next 18 months—equivalent to 3.25 billion fewer bags a year or the greenhouse gas emissions of 18,000 cars—and to work for the end of free single-use carrier bags.

“The reduction and recycling of packaging is an important symbol of change. The Government will take action in two areas. First, in consultation with industry, we will seek to further minimise the amount of packaging used, for example by setting optimal packaging standards for certain products, so that producers would be expected to use the lightest weight packaging wherever possible. In addition, I am writing today to Commissioner Dimas urging the European Commission to review the provisions of the EU packaging directive so that member states’ authorities can take more effective enforcement action against clear cases of excessive packaging. Secondly, we will need further to increase the rate of recycling of waste packaging. Subject to analysis, the Government will propose higher recycling targets for the period beyond 2008 and I have also written to the commissioner about this.

“The second step to achieving these objectives is investment in infrastructure. Our aim is to ensure investment in facilities that collect, sort, reprocess and treat waste by local authorities, businesses and the third sector. Alongside kerbside recycling, we want to stimulate the provision of much better recycling facilities in places of public access: I am delighted that those who represent many of the operators of airports and railway stations, alongside the Royal Parks, have signalled their support for a drive to make recycling easier in places under their management. We will also establish a ‘zero waste places’ initiative to develop innovative and exemplary waste practice. Through the private finance initiative, enhanced capital allowances and the proposed banding system for renewable obligation certificates, we intend to support a variety of energy recovery technologies. We expect energy from waste to account for 25 per cent of municipal waste by 2020, compared with 10 per cent today. This includes anaerobic digestion, which creates energy from food and other natural waste. According to the early evidence, the separate collection of household food waste on a weekly basis results in higher levels of recovery. Up to 20 local trials on best practice in this field are being undertaken. The third sector has a significant role to play in achieving social and environmental objectives. The waste and resources action programme will therefore be developing a new programme to build capacity further in third sector organisations to enable them to maximise their contribution.

“The third step is to use incentives and regulation to divert waste from landfill and to encourage recycling. In his Budget in March this year, my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a substantially higher and faster rate of increase for the landfill tax escalator, which is to rise by £8 per tonne per year until at least 2010-11. Partly as a result we now expect to see levels of commercial and industrial waste falling by 20 per cent by 2010 compared with 2004. We are considering with the construction industry a target to halve the amount of construction waste going to landfill by 2012. A number of European countries have imposed landfill bans on particular types of waste. Subject to additional analysis, we intend to consult on further restrictions on the landfilling of biodegradable waste or of recyclable materials.

“This strategy empowers local authorities to make the right decisions for local circumstances in consultation with their local populations. However, they are currently banned from providing financial incentives for waste reduction and recycling, even though elsewhere in Europe this has been an important contributory factor to higher recycling rates. We do not believe a new tax-raising power for local authorities is the right way forward. However, in response to calls from the Local Government Association, I am launching today a public consultation on proposals to allow revenue-neutral financial incentive schemes to reduce and recycle waste. Local authorities will be able to decide whether or not to develop schemes that reward in cash people who reduce waste and recycle at the expense of those who do not. Good recycling facilities need to be the foundation of such schemes and any authority introducing such a scheme will have to provide a good kerbside recycling service, as well as take steps to tackle fly-tipping and avoid unfair impacts on disadvantaged groups. In the end it is for voters at local elections to pass judgment on such schemes as against the alternatives.

“We are confident enough of the measures we are putting forward to set new and higher national targets for recycling, composting and recovery of household and municipal waste. We intend to achieve at least a 50 per cent average household recycling rate by 2020 as compared with the rate of 27 per cent in 2005-06. Subject to further analysis, we will be proposing higher recycling targets for packaging for the period beyond 2008. The Government must play their part, so the central government estate has targets to reduce waste by 25 per cent and recycle 75 per cent by 2020.

“We expect the combined impact of our policies to be a reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions from waste management of at least 9.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2020 compared with 2006. This is equivalent to taking 3 million cars off the road. These savings are before allowing for the additional carbon benefits from waste prevention.

“Action on waste can make an important contribution to tackling climate change and other environmental objectives. More and more people are concerned about living in a throwaway culture. This strategy gives people the tools to make a difference. It makes environmental sense and economic sense, and I commend it to the House”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made earlier today in another place, and for providing us with the four documents that go with it. Slightly tongue in cheek, I should like to ask how much they cost to produce and about the amount of paper used, but I do not expect answers to those questions today. The Minister indicates that I will get an answer; that is fine. Clearly this is a big undertaking and I am grateful for it.

We welcome much in the Statement and it would be churlish of me not to start by saying so. It is good that we are encouraging individuals to see a way forward in how to help in saving waste, and I particularly welcome the action to deal with junk mail. Many of us are fed up to the back teeth with the amount of unwanted post that drops through our letter boxes. I was glad to learn also that there will be easier access to recycling bins, through a set of clear measures. I congratulate the Government on that. But I am sure that the Minister cannot be anything but disappointed that our recycling rate is running at only 27 per cent. Some 75 per cent of household waste still goes into landfill, compared with 38 per cent in France and just 20 per cent in Germany.

The first waste strategy was launched back in 2000 and marked the start of things, but we do not seem to have progressed very quickly from there. Following that came the EU changes to the method for disposing of CFCs. Regulations were passed in 2000, but two years later there were still no specialist recycling facilities in the UK. Millions of fridges were stockpiled at a clear-up cost of some £40 million. This was followed by the waste electronics and electrical equipment directive which was due to come into force in August 2004. Five consultations and three-and-a-half years later, I understand that it will actually start on 1 July 2007. Then came the vehicle end-of-life regulations. What success did the Government have with those? Two million cars were scrapped, but only 762,776 certificates of destruction were issued some three years after the regulations became mandatory. Given that dismal record, is the Minister confident that the Government will meet the landfill directive, which requires the UK to reduce its biodegradable municipal waste sent to landfill to 75 per cent of the 1995 level by 2010? Can he also comment on the report from the National Audit Office last year which concluded that reductions in the proportion of biodegradable waste sent to landfill have been offset by the growth in the amount of waste produced? Clearly, that is worrying. The NAO report also predicted that local authorities would overshoot their targets by more than a quarter of a million tonnes in 2010, and by 1.4 million tonnes by 2013. That could result in the UK being fined £180 million.

The Statement today is full of aspiration, much of which I support, as I do the consultations taking place. But I am concerned about the long-term nature of some of these targets. Will the Government consider bringing in interim targets at certain stages to ensure that they are on course to achieve their longer-term aims?

I have six questions for the Minister. First, the Statement has announced today the voluntary agreement within industry to reduce waste and increase recycling. Do the Government have any idea how quickly this may be achieved, or whether a target has been set? Secondly, the EU packaging directive review has shown that member states can take more effective enforcement action against excessive packaging. How is this to be done? Will a European standard be brought forward or will each member state have the flexibility to act on recommendations?

Thirdly, I turn to investment in infrastructure. We are looking forward to the PFI enhanced capital allowances, but can the Minister confirm what I was told the other day, that in fact no public money will be made available? In other words, the Government are looking to industry to deal with it themselves. What he has said does not quite tie in with what was said by his right honourable friend earlier today, who stated:

“We intend to support a variety of energy recovery technologies”.

The two statements do not agree.

I turn now to the question of anaerobic digesters, a matter I raised recently during a debate. Again, I understand that no government money will be put towards developing this in the form of grants or any other help. How can we ensure that waste—an issue about which I know the noble Lord and I are concerned—is used more usefully in order to gain an energy supply from it? This is a double-edged sword: we have waste we do not want that could supply the energy we need. Surely the two could be tied together.

Fifthly, I turn to incentives and regulation. As I have said, the targets are long term. The Minister spoke of local government flexibility within those. I presume that neither he nor the Government wish to see any increase in the level of council tax in order to cope with the new waste regulations. What do the Government have in mind in order to help families on lower incomes? Often they are larger households which produce more waste. It is just one of those things. Lastly, I turn to the issue of fly tipping. The Statement refers to more effective enforcement, but how is that to be achieved when so few prosecutions are brought at this time?

I thank the Minister for his usual courtesy.

My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. It is slightly ironic that the smell in the Chamber is coming from the treatment of waste water from the Barry Room. I thought I would share that once I found out what it was. The timing of the Statement is excellent. Being a Thursday, it is recycling day in Islington. This morning before breakfast, I put out the recycling bags and our waste food box for recycling. Islington runs a brown box scheme—in other areas they are green boxes—allowing all food waste to be transferred to larger boxes and taken away. I hope that the Minister will look carefully at taking this kind of scheme out to all areas of the country, especially speaking as someone with small children who tend to leave their food if you cannot get it down them.

Collecting waste food has a dual benefit. First, we know that the waste is going to be used profitably for compost, and, secondly it keeps all the other waste free of contamination so that the bin bags do not smell. That will help a great deal if we move to a biweekly waste management regime with pest control, rats being a problem in London. A recent report stated that in this country we waste around 3.3 million tonnes of food. What mechanisms will the Government help local authorities to implement in order to compel people to use waste food schemes? While I and many of our neighbours are doing so, other people find it just too much of a bother to put something into one container and then into another one outside. It is so much easier just to throw it into a plastic bag, even given the environmental consequences of doing that.

A second strand of the Statement referred to unaddressed mail. The amount of unaddressed mail that people have to deal with and which goes straight into the recycling bin is an issue which is close to my heart and, no doubt, close to the hearts of many noble Lords. However, I was quite surprised when I asked the local postman in Northumberland about this and he told me that the Post Office makes a deal of money out of the unaddressed mail market. So, combined with the issues of post office closures and local postmen in rural areas, the Government may have to address this matter because it could have a consequence.

Are the Government planning to bring forward legislation to give local authorities greater powers and incentives? Many of us who deal with local authorities know that although the directive brought in in 2000 has been a success and should be lauded for its achievement in moving councils to recycle a good deal more of their reusable waste, there are cost implications for local authorities. The best place for recycling is in local communities at the lowest level, but there will be cost implications. Will this issue be considered in the spending review so that any further costs can be met? It could lead to cut backs in this area if the costs go straight onto the council tax and then have to vie for priority with other issues.

As to infrastructure, the Government have referred to the importance of using food waste and biodegradable waste for biogas, which can then be used for energy or for composting. But there are very few plants recycling plastic in this country and it is far cheaper to send it to China, to export the waste abroad, than to do anything about it here. So, if we are worried about the carbon implications of this, we should start building the infrastructure, not only for plastic but for all recyclables, in this country rather than moving the problem overseas. There is a real issue in retaining the confidence of people who recycle. Many people feel that by dividing their waste and putting it in the right receptacles, they are helping the environment but a lot of them have heard stories that much of this waste goes to landfill. This has been the case with some councils which have not had the facilities and have sent divided waste to landfill. I hope the Minister will launch a campaign of information about what happens with our waste.

My Lords, on that last point, we have repeatedly said in answer to Questions in the House that it is illegal for local authorities to send waste abroad for disposal in landfill. There is no argument about that. I am not saying that it does not happen despite the great deal of checking that takes place, but it is an illegal practice. They all know that and so ignorance is no excuse.

I am grateful for the response to the paper. I do not want to make a petty point, but the positive contribution of the noble Baroness contrasted enormously with the response made in the other place to the Secretary of State, which was negative in the extreme. We do not expect everyone to agree with everything, but the language used was inflammatory and extremely negative. The noble Baroness has been quite positive.

The cost of the documents provided today is about £40,000. I shall write to the noble Baroness about that. We have restricted distribution of the hard copies of the full document. We have distributed only 30 to the Printed Paper Office and to the Vote Office in the other place, but they are all available on the web. If there is any trouble, my office will facilitate the e-mailing of them to noble Lords. I recommend the executive summary, which runs to only a few pages but answers virtually all of the questions that have been raised, and the consultation paper on the incentives for household recycling. I shall refer to that in greater detail in a moment.

The noble Baroness and the noble Lord both referred to junk mail. I do not want to open up wounds for the Post Office, but delivering 350 million items of unaddressed junk mail is an unacceptable way for it to earn a living these days. I can remember the scandal last year when it suspended a postie who had told his customers how they could stop unaddressed junk mail. I followed his advice and, although it is very difficult, it is possible to do so. We are going to make it easier to stop the unaddressed junk mail—it is quite easy to stop the addressed junk mail—but the Post Office should hang its head in shame over that postie who was suspended from his duties. I think I have made the point there.

As to a negative part of the noble Baroness’s contribution, we are disappointed that we recycled only 27 per cent of our waste; it is appalling. In the documents one can see what is done in other countries. But it was only 7.5 per cent 10 years ago, so there has been a quadrupling in recycling in the past 10 years. We are way behind virtually every other country of the original 15 members of the European Union. We have greatly misused our land and we need to increase that 27 per cent of recycled waste to our target of 50 per cent as quickly as possible. I shall not go over the past, the fridges or the WEEE directive. I fully accept the points the noble Baroness has made and that they are important in their own way.

The noble Baroness referred to the targets being long term. I draw her attention to the executive summary on targets at page 11. The first target is set for 2010 and we are now in 2007, so they are not all long term. The targets dates are 2010, 2015 and 2020. The noble Baroness is right that we have actively to manage them on a year-by-year basis. It is no good going to sleep for a few years and asking, “How have we done?”. That will not be effective.

The noble Baroness asked about EU packaging and my honourable friend Ben Bradshaw, the Minister with detailed responsibility, contacting the Commission. The idea is to get the process Europe-wide. We need to have as level a playing field as possible with packaging because of our massive inter-trade within the community. It would not be cost effective for suppliers to have different packaging for different countries. Nevertheless, I am absolutely certain that we need a European-wide answer on this.

The noble Baroness referred to infrastructure, the PFI, capital allowances and support for anaerobic digestion and she equated support with money. The usual phrase is: “We need support. We need assistance”; in other words, “Will the Government give us money?”. If the Government can help to create a market—this is where the public good of the Government comes in—for entrepreneurs to make a lot of money out of recycling, eliminating waste and getting energy out of waste, that would be much more productive than providing subsidies. But the noble Baroness is right that comparisons will be made. The 3,000 anaerobic digestion plants on German farms are there because of a 20-year tax break by the German Government to the farmers. I am not denying that. Anaerobic digestion is fine and I am a big supporter of it. I first came across it when I was in Northern Ireland as a Minister, and there it was a very important project. There are projects all around the country, including a big one at Bedfordia and the experimental plant at Ludlow.

As to the smaller anaerobic digestion plants and the creation of electricity, they have to be connected to the grid. We have to make sure that we do not make it impossible for groups of farmers or others using the food waste to connect to the grid, which is quite an expensive operation.

As to incentives for local authorities, I suggest that noble Lords look at pages 16 to 19 of the consultation document. There is no single solution. Local authorities have a menu to choose from of bin volume-based schemes, frequency-based schemes, sack-based schemes—that is, buying the sacks—or weight-based schemes. Example one is on page 19, example 2 is on page 20 and example 3 is on page 21. This shows exactly how such schemes can work, with cash coming back to people who have recycled more than the norm and payments being made by those who have not bothered to co-operate, either because they have to pay for a higher volume of waste to be removed or, if it is a sack-based scheme, they have had to buy more sacks. The issue of fines does not come into it. If you recycle and dispose of less than the norm, you will gain financially. That is the exercise here. A separate financial arrangement will be made with regard to council tax. That is an important point. There will be no knock-on to the council tax; it will operate quite separately. In this country, we do not allow our local authorities to give such incentives, but other countries do. We will have to legislate for that, and I understand there will be an opportunity, as they say, in forthcoming legislation.

With regard to fly-tipping, I can only reinforce what was said during the original exchange at Question Time. Incidentally, local councils will not be able to bring in those incentive schemes unless they have developed kerbside recycling for at least five products and been proactive on fly-tipping. In other words, whatever the local populace might say, they cannot just come in and say, “We’re going to have this incentive scheme where you pay a bit more or a bit less”. All the infrastructure must also be in place to make it easy for people to dispose of products and to be proactive so that there will not be any increase in fly-tipping. Rather, the authorities must actively operate against it. A package is therefore laid out to make it revenue-neutral and as positive for customers as possible.

My Lords, I for one warmly welcome the Statement from the Minister and congratulate the Government on their commitment. The challenge to us all in both Houses now is how we support the Government in the means to achieve the targets that have been set out. Means will be at least as important as aspirations.

One of the biggest waste challenges of our generation has been the industrial waste bequeathed by the industrial revolution. As we embark upon a new energy policy, as we were discussing yesterday, will my noble friend assure the House that at the centre of the Government’s strategy will be a determination to ensure that the infrastructure necessary for the new energy policy will be as environmentally sensitive and friendly as possible?

Does he also agree that waste comes in sinister forms on occasion? I am very open-minded about the contribution to be made by nuclear power, but does my noble friend not agree that if we are talking about waste, it would be the height of irresponsibility to go down that road, with all its grave implications for future generations, until we are certain about the safe disposal of nuclear waste?

My Lords, the answer to the first part of my noble friend’s question is yes. On the other part, I am no expert on the nuclear issue, but I have noted a somewhat hysterical view on the disposal of nuclear waste given as an excuse by certain people not even to debate the use of nuclear power. Disposing of and safely looking after nuclear waste can be put to bed from an engineering and technology point of view. That would remove the hysterics which are stopping people even having the debate on nuclear.

My Lords, I was much encouraged by what the Minister said about the need to create incentives and conditions for the ultimate disposal of the large quantities of waste that will still exist even if that figure of 27.5 per cent is doubled. Waste disposal contractors have a problem with getting planning permission for building incinerators or other major plants for disposing of this waste. Will projects of that sort be covered by the Planning Commission proposals made earlier this week in the White Paper on planning?

The Minister mentioned, rightly, methane and greenhouse gases. Is there any possibility of bringing such plants within the European Union emissions trading scheme so that, if they can produce the kind of technology that limits the output of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, they can get the benefits of that through the scheme? The planning and energy proposals that we had yesterday could both be very relevant to the problem of disposing of over 50 per cent of the waste that cannot be recycled.

My Lords, the noble Lord has hit the nail exactly on the head. There is no magic bullet here; there is a package of measures that are consequential on each other. We want to get energy out of waste, however we do it. Obviously getting heat and power is better than getting just the power, but getting the power is important. We want to avoid landfill. As has been said, one-third to 40 per cent of food that is purchased is wasted. Six million tonnes of wood go to landfill every year. There is an enormous amount of energy loss, and a huge amount of potential energy. So it does not make sense for the Government to come forward with a strategy like this, trying to meet these targets, and then say, “By the way, we can’t give planning permission” and things like that.

Clearly we have to be sensitive on this issue. We do not want large amounts of waste food and so on being transported around the country. Therefore smaller localised plants are better. Such plants are probably nearer centres of population, though, so you have to take account of that, but it is common sense that the planning permission arguments and the renewable energy use should be linked to the waste strategy so that everyone benefits. Certainly the climate will benefit, as will future generations.

The noble Lord’s point on the emissions trading scheme is well made. If you can create a market, the private sector will do the business without massive public government subsidies. That will help to create a market, as will the increase in the landfill tax.

My Lords, I warmly welcome what the Minister has said today, particularly what he said about plastic carrier bags. Some of the timings in the Statement seem to be rather long. Is there any chance that some of these deadlines could be brought forward? It would not be beyond the wit of Government, local authorities and individuals to speed things up, given the obvious urgency of the problem.

Many people would want to co-operate fully with what the Government seek to do—many individuals, many householders. Would it be possible to ensure, either through the Government or through local authorities, that we get better advice on how we can be environmentally sensible about waste disposal? My noble friend talked about wood being burnt. I am not aware whether or not it is right to have a bonfire these days. If not, how does one dispose of such waste? There is all sorts of advice that the Government could ensure we received so that we could co-operate more fully in helping them to achieve their laudable aims.

My Lords, I am not sure about bonfires either, although I was in Northern Ireland last weekend and saw the early construction of the bonfires, ready for July. They are very large.

On the issue of timing, my noble friend is right. Much of what we are setting out, though not all of it, will require primary legislation. An early slot will be needed. There are Bills flowing through the system for both the next Session and the Session after, so I would expect us to have reasonably early debates on these issues. I cannot say when—I am in no position to do that—but we will not be slow in bringing forward the necessary legislation, even if it is required to be tacked on to other relevant Bills.

My Lords, I congratulate the Government on a package that contains some pretty good stuff. Not for the first time, I wish the noble Lord were in line command of the whole thing, because he is robust and practical and I suspect he would get things done.

I am a little surprised that there is no mention of the highly successful approach in the United States of making containers—tins, glass and plastic bottles—returnable. It started over 20 years ago in Oregon, and has now spread to a number of states. The net result is that if the affluent discard things, the less affluent pick them up and get some money from the shops when they return them. Of course that adds to the cost initially, but the cost of packaging, including its environmental impact, has to be paid by the consumer, and should be.

On fly-tipping, I should like to put on the record suggestions I made to the Minister after the exchange in the House two or three weeks ago: a mandatory sentence for conviction for fly-tipping, not of a fine and certainly not of imprisonment, but, for the first offence, of 50 hours of litter-picking, and of 100 hours for subsequent offences. I doubt whether many people would commit more than once offence.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his comments—well, I am not very grateful for the first part. There is a reshuffle coming up in a few weeks’ time, and that kind of remark is not helpful.

I do not have the answer on segregated returns, but I know that there is a reference to what happens in Canada and parts of the United States in the full document. I do not think that anything has been proposed or initiated that does not happen somewhere in Europe or elsewhere in the modern world. We freely admit that we are way behind, and we have a lot to learn.

The noble Lord is quite right that he made a suggestion about fly-tipping. I put it to the department and I hope that the answer will not be, “We can’t do that, as it would affect people’s human rights”.

My Lords, I join other noble Lords in congratulating the Government on this strategy. It is an excellent initiative. All noble Lords are no doubt exemplary in how they dispose of their waste, but not everybody is, so this is a useful addition to the overall culture.

The strategy, which I have not had a chance to look at in detail, talks about culture change; it requires people to change their habits. Does my noble friend know, or could he find out, what percentage of waste recovered by local authorities had been discarded randomly in the street or out of cars? My hunch is that it is a very significant percentage. It does not count as fly-tipping because it is not targeted in quite the way that fly-tipping implies, but it creates an enormous environmental hazard and amenity loss. For example, in hedgerows which have been recently cut, among the green waste is a great deal of waste such as plastic bottles and bags and paper bags that have been chewed up by the machines used to clear the verges. If my noble friend knows what percentage of waste recovered by local authorities results from this sort of problem, can he say what additional incentives the Government or local authorities may be able to bring forward to discourage such littering? There used to be litter laws and litter louts—now we talk about waste, but it comes to the same thing. It is anti-social behaviour, and I am not clear to what extent that will be tackled under this strategy.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for raising this point, which goes a bit beyond this debate. I do not know what the figure is for local authorities regarding littering as opposed to fly-tipping—we understand the distinction. I will see if I can get one.

On my noble friend’s first point, page 2 of the executive summary shows that the vision will require changes by producers and consumers. It will involve producers, retailers and consumers. Businesses and individual households, local authorities and the waste management industry will have opportunities to change their behaviour. The waste management industry is huge and uses a whole range of professional techniques. It will, I hope, be given a big boost, which is very important because it will then make a positive contribution. However, this will require a cultural change. People might think that they cannot play a part but everybody can. The explanation and the detail of the consequences of this package and the consultation with local government will, I hope, show individuals how they can make a connection. It will be different for all of us, but we can all make a contribution.

My Lords, will my noble friend revisit the question of anaerobic digestion, which was first brought up, very constructively, by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford? I declare an interest in that my brother-in-law has developed a very good anaerobic digestion scheme in the district of Craven, in North Yorkshire. However, he is having difficulty getting this implemented, partly because of an obstructive attitude from the existing waste disposal authorities. He has a lot of approval from environmental lobbies and people in the district but the local authority is not willing to move. I do not think the objection is about linking to the grid, as my noble friend mentioned. Would it be possible for encouragement to come from central government to demonstrate that this is an extremely sensible plan which fits in with the necessity to curb global warming while helping to get rid of waste?

My Lords, my noble friend’s brother-in-law must live in a very backward part of the country with a backward local authority and backward local suppliers. There are about 100 plants around the country, some of which deal with farm waste. Food waste has to be combined with farm waste, or green waste has to be confined with food waste, to get the recipe—the gases and the temperature—right. There is a substantive product from anaerobic digestion. The Environment Agency is very close to getting a digestive standard so that that product can be used on the land. There is an outcome to the process—it is not just the gas and power generation. I suggest that my noble friend’s brother-in-law contacts my department. We will certainly be able to provide the backwoodsmen up north with better information.

My Lords, will the Government please stop castigating poor old householders for putting out rubbish? We are not responsible for the amount of rubbish that comes into our houses. We have coming into our houses endless rubbish, principally in the form of packaging, over which we have remarkably little control. Could the Government start on packaging?

My Lords, I accept the noble Lady’s point. We have mentioned packaging. We are not being onerous on householders. We are seeking merely to move away from the tradition of putting all one’s waste in a dustbin, whether it is food, garden waste, paper and cardboard, glass or aluminium cans, and simply saying to people, “Here is a facility provided by the local authority. Will you just take the time to separate your cardboard from your paper, and your aluminium cans from your glass? We the local authority will provide a kerbside recycling system so that this waste does not all end up as daunting landfill, although anything that can’t be recycled clearly has to be dealt with that way”. That is not asking too much of society.

My Lords, we have a major blockage in the drainage system. In about 10 minutes’ time, something called a “sludge gulper” will be set up. I am afraid that it will be slightly noisy, but I assure your Lordships that it is better to get rid of the waste products.

I warn all noble Lords that the Whip on duty will sound like somebody who is running a boating lake during the debate of the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, if anyone goes even 10 seconds over their time. The time has been so tightly allocated that, even if everyone sticks to their allocation, the noble Lord will have only 60 seconds in which to withdraw his Motion.