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Recycling: Wales

Volume 774: debated on Wednesday 13 July 2016


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what lessons they have learned from the success of the Welsh Government in increasing recycling rates, and whether they plan to adopt similar strategies in England.

My Lords, all parts of the UK have had success in improving recycling rates. We believe that local authorities are best placed to manage their waste and recycling, but we can all learn from each other’s successes and do more to increase recycling. My ministerial colleague Rory Stewart has commissioned WRAP to look at how we in England can best improve our performance through having more consistency in services, and this work is well advanced.

I thank the Minister for that reply. He will know that the Wales recycling rates are now nearly 60%, whereas the England rates have been stuck on 45% and, according to the latest figures, are now actually going into reverse. The difference is that the Wales Government have shown leadership by setting targets for individual local authorities, streamlining recycling bins and collection frequencies, and setting statutory requirements for food waste collection. Is it not about time that the UK Government in England got a grip on their poor record, stopped dithering and implemented a proper plan to deliver at least a 50% target based on the lessons they could learn from Wales?

My Lords, as I said in my earlier reply, we certainly want to look at best practice. That is precisely why my ministerial colleague is looking at this with WRAP and local authorities. We need to advance all parts of the United Kingdom. There are some very good examples of local authorities in all parts of the kingdom. For instance, the Vale of White Horse now sends 65.6% of household waste for reuse, recycling and composting. Many local authorities are working hard at this, and I well understand that we want to look at all parts of the kingdom where it is working well.

Is the Minister aware—I am sure he is not—that some years ago I asked whether guidance could be given so that everyone set out the same things to be recycled? At that time, the answer from the Government—I cannot remember which Government—was no, they did not want to tell people what to do. My daughter has been chairman of the West London Waste Authority; she has finished now, so I am not declaring an official interest. It has come out very clearly that those four boroughs—two Labour and two Conservative boroughs all working together—are recycling different things. It all gets collected together in the end, goes down the Thames somewhere and is then re-sorted. Certain things cost the earth to take out of recycling, and it would be so much more effective and valuable if they were not put in. Again, is it not time that the Government looked at the idea of giving people a model list? One of the big problems is that boroughs cannot change a contract until it has finished.

I am sure your Lordships agree with the thrust of what my noble friend is saying, which is that we all need to recycle very much more. That is precisely why we are working with local authorities and WRAP. We want to promote best practice and get as many local authorities as possible to join together so that we get the result we all want.

My Lords, it is not just the Welsh we are lagging behind. The Scottish have recently published a circular economy strategy, which sets a target for a reduction in food waste of a third by 2025. Do the Government have plans to develop a strategy to allow England to capitalise on the economic and environmental benefits of moving towards a more circular economy?

My Lords, I never like trading figures, but my figures tell me that Scotland is at 41%, whereas England is at 44.9%. In fact, what we all, and certainly this Government, want is to improve. I have spoken about the circular economy many times. It is an essential part of the economy that we all need to work towards, because it is in all our interests.

Can I give the Minister another example of a success from Wales? In the United Kingdom at present, Wales is the safest place to eat out—by a mile—simply because the Welsh Government went for mandatory display of food hygiene rating scores on the doors. Every single local authority in England has joined the scheme, and there is therefore no need for a delay in England. It does not cost anything whatever in public expenditure, and people are entitled to have the information. We want to make eating out in England as safe as in Wales because we know what the scores are for hygiene in the kitchens.

My Lords, I will certainly reflect on that and take it away. All I can say is that it is very important that all of us who go out eat the best British produce, whether it is Welsh lamb, British cheeses or whatever. The noble Lord has made a very important point.

My Lords, as a proud Welsh resident who is used to recycling, I commend the system in Wales to the Government. Apart from pushing up recycling rates, having proper food containers for food recycling has decreased the amount of rubbish falling out of torn bin bags that have been opened by foxes or birds, and decreased the amount of food-type rubbish and therefore controlled vermin across our cities.

My Lords, I am very happy to endorse what the noble Baroness has said. My brief tells me that Denbighshire and Pembrokeshire have recycling rates of over 65%. These are the sorts of figures that we want to see all across the country. There are local authorities in England that have figures in excess of that, but we want to make sure that this is a common percentage.

What more can be done to encourage the worst-performing councils to learn from the best practice of the best-performing councils?

My Lords, I agree with my noble friend; we need to ensure that. One of the great features that we are now seeing is the partnerships created by local authorities. In Kent, Surrey, Greater Manchester and Somerset, partnerships of local authorities are working together, bringing a common standard, consistency and higher recycling rates. In Parliament, we have a target of recycling 75% of our waste. We are up to 63% now—we were at 47% in 2008-09—but we have more to do.

My Lords, will the Minister accept that Wales is leading the way not only on recycling and food hygiene—and on the football field—but in many other areas, particularly in integrated social care, which this Government are shamefully neglecting in England? That is because we have an effective Welsh Labour Government in Wales to resist the destructive policies of this Government.

I am sure the noble Lord knows that I am not going to agree with much of what he has said. The whole basis of the success of this country is a strong economy. You cannot do any of the things that we all want to do unless you have a sound economy.