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Environment Bill

Volume 814: debated on Wednesday 8 September 2021

Report (2nd Day) (Continued)

Clause 51: Producer Responsibility for Disposal Costs

Amendment 33

Moved by

33: Clause 51, page 31, line 6, at end insert “including fly-tipped items.”

Member’s explanatory statement

Farmers and landowners currently have to pay for the removal of all fly-tipping. This amendment is intended to extend the ‘polluter pays’ principle to fly-tipping.

My Lords, in speaking to this group of amendments in my name, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, for adding her name to Amendments 33, 37 and 41. I will deal with the fly-tipping amendments first.

Fly tipping, and its effect on our environment, especially in rural areas, is a scourge, unsightly and extremely costly for landowners and farmers to remove. I am grateful to the Minister for his amendment to Schedule 10, but fear that it does not go far enough. Amendment 33 adds the words, “including fly-tipped items”; Amendment 37 adds the words:

“to remove all fly-tipping at the expense of the manufacturer or producer”.

Both amendments seek to ensure that the “polluter pays” principle applies to fly-tipped items. Amendment 39 allows farmers and landowners to install CCTV cameras where fly-tipping has occurred in the past. This very small suite of amendments allows the principle of the “polluter pays” to become a reality.

Currently, it is far too easy for those who have large, redundant items in their home or large amounts of green waste to fill up their trailers, cars or vans and travel around the country looking for some likely green lane, gateway or field in which to dump their waste. They do not wish to pay for legal disposal. The cost to the farmers and landowners is enormous, running into several thousands of pounds each year.

There are those who ditch ordinary household waste in the same way and pollute the countryside with what could be toxic chemicals. There are the professional criminals who cruise around villages and housing estates, spotting who is having a clear-out, and offer to take the waste away for a small fee. The householder jumps at the chance of not having to deal with the problem themselves and pays up, thinking that it is all sorted. These criminals then go on to a site which they have used before, often on many occasions, and dump the waste on the landowner and farmer’s land. The installation of CCTV at sites which are used more than once is essential to help farmers and landowners deal with this problem by identifying those responsible and bringing them to account.

The NFU is supportive of this group of amendments and hopes that offenders caught dumping waste illegally should see fines as a proper punishment, which will therefore act as a deterrent. Fly-tipping figures have increased to 1 million during lockdown and are likely to have risen as the country came out of lockdown. The eagle-eyed among you will note that I withdrew my amendment that asked the Government to recompense farmers and landowners for the costs of clearing up fly-tipping; this was a blatant attempt to make the amendment acceptable, at no cost to the Government. I hope that the Minister can accept these three amendments, which would benefit those who clear up the waste that others leave behind and allow for measures to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.

Before I move on from this group, I refer to a small article in the Metro newspaper from 8 July, which I read on the tube. A farmer caught several fly-tippers in the act and

“blocked them in with a car, tractor and forklift truck”.

He was

“fed up with rubbish being left on his land, so set a trap”.

He said:

“‘Fly-tipping is regular here, so I parked the car across the gateway’ … One of the tippers threatened him, saying: ‘I’ll just smash my way out.’”

The farmer replied:

“‘That’s why I bought a £200 car.’ The dumpers left their truck at the scene and it was seized by the police who are investigating”.

I hope that a prosecution resulted from that incident.

Amendment 41 does not really fit with the other amendments, but in the interests of moving things along I agreed to group it with the others. This articulates an extremely important point of principle about compostable packaging. Big brands are expanding their use of these materials in the search for alternatives to plastics. Meanwhile, consumers seek out compostable packaging, with 83% of them saying in polling that they prefer it to traditional plastic. The question is how the materials are then composted. Food waste schemes provide the means for compostable materials to be disposed of safely and efficiently, but only if there is consistency across England, so that consumers know that these materials should go in their food waste bin.

The amendment refers to flexible materials, properly certified to internationally recognised standards. The items that we are really concerned with are films, which are very difficult to recycle. Indeed, the amount that is recycled remains stubbornly low, at only 6%, according to WRAP figures. In Committee, the Minister said to me:

“If a plastic is genuinely compostable and not going to break down into small particles of plastic that will do even more harm, including it in food waste to compost would make perfect sense. However, we are not there yet from a technological point of view. We certainly do not have the confidence to do that.”—[Official Report, 30/6/21; cols. 916-7.]

At that time, I asked the Minister for a meeting, to which he agreed. Despite pressing his private office to arrange this, there has been no offer of the promised meeting to discuss the straightforward difference of understanding between us on this issue. Evidence from the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology, whose members include composting and AD plants, shows that 42 composting plants and some of the 90 AD plants treating food waste are currently able to accept and process compostable packaging. These plants would welcome a visit from the Minister.

The UK Plastics Pact sets a target to ensure that 70% of plastics are effectively recycled or composted by 2025. That cannot happen while a quarter of plastic packaging is flexible material but only a tiny fraction can be recycled, particularly where the film is very thin and where it is food-contaminated. Compostables must be part of the picture. In answering Amendment 41, would the Minister please agree to meet compostable film producers, as well as those composting them successfully, and to visit one of the sites where this is happening? If he is not satisfied with the current evidence, would he commission research, through Defra, to look at how bioplastics are processed in composting plants here in the UK? It cannot be right for these materials to be stripped out by processing plants and incinerated or sent to landfill. This is betraying the customer and the consumer. I beg to move.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to support the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville. I apologise for not having signed the CCTV amendment; I did not spot it. Fly-tipping is something that I do not think any of us would support. Of course, it has inherent dangers, not only to the public but to wildlife in affected areas, especially if it contains toxic materials such as asbestos. There can be damage to watercourses and soil quality from the dumped waste.

Greenpeace has some quite interesting stuff on this. It has been checking areas and samples of materials resembling topsoil, covering large areas of the ground at sites where plastic waste has been burned because people do not know what to do with it, were found to be composed of shredded plastic and not earth at all. That then just gets washed out everywhere. We all know what microplastics are doing to our ecosystem.

I shall keep my remarks brief because we are all tired, but I point out that the Local Government Association is also urging people to dispose of their waste properly, which is fair enough, using the nearest household waste and recycling centre. It has worked tirelessly to keep these open during the pandemic. It also talks about wanting furniture and mattress companies, for example, to do more to offer take-back services to reduce the amount of waste produced. That is something we have not explored enough. In places such as Germany, they take back lots of packaging and so on, and they will take back items. We are very behind on that in this country.

Amendment 41, about plastic, deals with a very complex area. A lot of the plastics that are called biodegradable, disposable and so on are actually not. We have to be very sure: what we need are definitions of what “biodegradable” and “compostable” mean. We need plastic—so-called plastic or whatever it is—to be compostable in average situations; that is, in my compost heap and not necessarily under ideal temperature- controlled conditions. I would argue that these amendments are very valuable and give all sorts of good ideas to the Government. I hope they take them up.

My Lords, I am very glad to join in this debate on fly-tipping, spilling over into the world of plastic disposal. I am a farmer, and the NFU has voiced its support, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, mentioned, because it is a huge problem in some areas, along with all anti-social behaviour. Around where I am, the anti-social thing tends to be people taking things away rather than bringing things along, but that is another topic. They come and chop down trees to have bonfires and so on.

Perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, can tell us what she has discovered about restrictions on having CCTV. It is very easy nowadays. We have done it already. We have a movement-sensitive camera that can be set up anywhere. It will record whatever can be seen in infra-red so that you can do it at night. I do not know if there is a restriction in law that prohibits this being used as evidence, but it would be an important thing to do.

The grouping of this amendment has spilled over into the question of plastic disposal. As a farmer, I was interested to see how it affects the farming industry. Plastic packaging waste from agriculture represents approximately 1.5% of the overall volume of plastic packaging in the waste stream in England. The message I got from the NFU was that it recognises the pressing issue of plastic waste and supports the direction of travel of many retailers to either eliminate plastic packaging or replace it with compostable and recyclable material.

However, when looking to reduce plastic use, it is important that food safety and quality are not compromised. It is also important that the costs of replacement packaging are not merely passed down to the primary producer. Multilayer plastic films act as barriers to oxygen, water and aroma and are important for protecting food items such as fresh fruit and vegetables. Limiting the performance of specialised packaging could lead to an increase in food waste, which is already an issue in itself. The NFU and its membership have been working closely with retailers and WRAP to reduce waste on farms. Our involvement with Courtauld 2020 has allowed great strides in the understanding of food waste and steps to curb it.

A great deal of plastic, as anybody who has visited a farm nowadays will see, is used to preserve feedstuffs for animals. We have great quantities of, very often, black plastic. There is a recycling route for it but, of course, there are great difficulties with contamination. These are things that will gradually need to be overcome.

My Lords, I will speak to all the amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, who has very passionately illustrated the scale of the problem and the urgent need to address it, both in Committee and today. Fly-tipping not only affects the hard work of our farmers in producing food and caring for the environment but takes a huge toll on farming families, both emotionally and financially.

As I have said, any type of fly-tipping is unacceptable, and it is key to prosecute fly-tippers and recover the clearance costs where possible. We also need to ensure that councils provide advice and guidance on measures that can be taken to prevent further fly-tipping. Those who produce pollution should bear the costs of managing it and preventing damage to human health or the environment. The polluter pays principle is part of a set of broader principles to guide sustainable development worldwide. This principle should extend to farming.

We are disappointed that the Government have not taken the initiative to fix this and respond to these amendments in a clear and direct manner. I remind the Minister that new data from the Environment Agency shows that farmers are the group most affected by large-scale, illegally dumped rubbish. The NFU’s recent rural crime survey revealed that fly-tipping was the most prolific crime experienced by its members, with 48% of those surveyed saying that they had experienced it in 2020. The noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, reminded us of that point in relation to the concerns of the NFU. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, also mentioned it.

Nearly 50,000 people have signed an open letter demanding immediate action to tackle fly-tipping in the countryside, following a surge in waste crime during the Covid-19 lockdown. In an Oral Question on fly-tipping in the House of Lords on 23 June this year, I was very reassured to hear the Minister talk about launching the Joint Unit for Waste Crime. How has this worked out in terms of enforcement, specifically in relation to fly-tipping in rural communities? I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response to the amendments. How will she reassure farmers who are calling for urgent action on the fly-tipping crisis in rural communities?

I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to this important debate and the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, for her amendments. I can only apologise that no meeting has taken place between her and the Minister; we have had a lot of meetings over the summer break, and it is a bit of a mystery to us as to why we have not followed up on this. We will investigate and a meeting will be expedited.

I begin by emphasising our commitment to tackling the crime of fly-tipping. We appreciate the difficulty and cost that fly-tipping poses to landowners. We expect all local authorities to exercise their power to investigate fly-tipping incidents on private land, prosecuting the fly-tippers and recovering clearance costs where possible.

Regarding Amendment 39, landowners are already permitted to install CCTV on their land. I am grateful to my noble friend the Duke of Montrose for his contribution. Defra chairs the National Fly-tipping Prevention Group, which has published advice for private landowners on dealing with fly-tipping. To reassure my noble friend, the NFU works very closely with Defra in this endeavour. It actually recommends that landowners consider installing CCTV to protect their property. Subject to data protection laws, landowners may also provide footage to law enforcement authorities to support prosecution cases.

The Environment Bill will give enforcing authorities more powers to tackle fly-tipping and other waste crime, including so-called Facebook fly-tippers operating from their homes. It also grants regulators additional charging powers that will enable them to raise extra funding to tackle waste crime and poor performance in the waste industry.

Turning to Amendments 33 and 37, extended producer responsibility clauses in the Bill already include provisions which could enable asking companies to take full responsibility for their products when they become waste, including when they have been unlawfully discarded. This can include the costs of removing littered or fly-tipped items, including from private land. Measures in the Bill on deposit return schemes will also allow the deposit management organisation to use money received under a scheme for the protection of the environment. This could include costs associated with the removal of littered or fly-tipped items. We have recently consulted on a deposit return scheme for drinks containers to help reduce littering and improve their recycling. While we are not currently considering introducing a deposit return scheme for other items, measures in the Bill will allow us to set up more deposit return schemes for other items, which could include those which are frequently tipped—for example, fridges and mattresses.

On Amendment 41, on compostable plastic, I sympathise with the concern of the noble Baroness. However, the infrastructure to process compostable plastic is not currently widespread enough to include these materials for collection with food waste. We just cannot be certain that compostable plastic can be treated at anaerobic digestion plants or composting facilities in a way that does not increase the plastic contamination in compost. However, I can confirm that the Minister would be delighted to meet representatives of one of these facilities in future. I should also reiterate that we can add compostables as a recycling stream on its own later, when we have the evidence. Evidence suggests that compostable and biodegradable plastics do not fully break down in the open environment and must be treated in industrial composting facilities to be broken down. There is also a lack of strong evidence that compostable plastics provide benefits to soils when successfully composted.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, is correct that at present there is no reasonable certainty over whether there are benefits to the final digestate—which I understand is a fertilizer—and compost products resulting from the inclusion of biodegradable and compostable plastic materials as feedstock. However, there are provisions in the Environment Bill to add additional waste streams, provided that they meet the conditions set out in the Bill and that we are clear on the environmental impacts. This will involve further necessary work to understand whether compostable packaging can meet the conditions set out in new subsection 45AZC(4). This must be met before further recyclable waste streams can be added for collection. We are currently analysing responses to our recycling consultation on reforms to recycling consistency, which sought views on the use of compostable caddy liners. I hope this reassures the noble Baroness of the Government’s intentions and I ask her to withdraw her amendment.

I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, referred to local authorities urging householders to use household waste recycling centres, taking mattresses and other items there. That is really useful. The household waste recycling centre in our area is very well used. It has a camera feed on its website which shows what the queues are like, so that if you are at home and waiting to see what time to go in, you will usually find that you can get in between 5 pm and 6 pm without having to queue. Not enough people use those centres.

The noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, spoke about movement-sensitive cameras. I am not convinced that they would be sufficient as evidence in court for a prosecution. However, the Minister said that Defra produces guidance for using CCTV in a way which would be sufficient evidence for a prosecution.

I welcome the deposit return schemes. I am very interested in their possibly including fridges, and they could probably be extended to washing machines, which often find their way into the countryside.

The noble Lord, Lord Khan of Burnley, referred to the petition which people have signed to say that they are outraged by fly-tipping. It is undoubtedly true that, as people walk or drive around their local areas, they are pretty disgusted by the amount of fly-tipped rubbish that has been left.

On compostable film, I am grateful to the Minister for the offer of a meeting and hope that this can now take place without delay. There is obviously some discrepancy between the information we have received from different sources, and it would be good to have it cleared up.

Having said that, I am satisfied with the response that I have received and am pleased to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 33 withdrawn.

Schedule 5: Producer responsibility for disposal costs

Amendment 34

Moved by

34: Schedule 5, page 171, line 37, after “appoint” insert “, or make provision for the appointment of,”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment enables regulations to make provision for the appointment of an administrator for extended producer responsibility.

My Lords, I am pleased table Amendments 34, 44 and 45, which will support the swifter and more effective implementation and operation of extended producer responsibility measures.

In Committee, we recognised that a priority of the House was to ensure that we are able to get extended producer responsibility regimes up and running as soon as possible. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, highlighted this on Monday. These amendments will save both time and money when setting up and running new schemes and will apply right across the UK.

The amendments allow us to adjust the provisions for appointing scheme administrators from a solely competitive procurement process to allow for the appointment process to be set out in regulations. This increased flexibility will benefit smaller schemes such as for single-use products. We anticipate in these instances that a process which would have previously taken 12 months could now take four.

Amendment 44 gives the Environment Agency, the Natural Resources Body for Wales and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency the same charging powers in relation to Schedule 5 as they have for Schedule 4, which is granted through Clause 64. This amendment allows them to make one scheme with both provisions from Schedules 4 and 5, as opposed to having to have two separate charging schemes.

Amendment 45 provides for the same powers for the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. As a package, these amendments will enable the swifter establishment of extended producer responsibility schemes. I beg to move.

My Lords, the last time I spoke at this Report stage was on Monday, when we were talking about very macro issues around the emergencies of biodiversity and climate change. Those are really important, and I was very glad that the House saw that. However, we all know as well that the minutiae—the micro side—of how this Bill’s provisions are delivered are equally crucial to its success.

We also know that, on extended producer responsibility, the circular economy and making consumers fully informed about what they want to do and how they can make the right decisions for the environment they live in, those small issues are really important to make this Act—as it will be—a success in terms of its delivery.

So the reason I tabled this amendment—and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, for her support in this—is a very practical one: to make sure that when consumers see products, they are able to judge easily, straightforwardly and instantly in terms of a purchase decision—or a longer-term investment in other consumer goods—that they are making the right decision for the environment. Quite frankly, this amendment just states the obvious: to make sure that labelling within this country is single, straightforward and obvious and that consumers recognise it and act upon it. It does not ask that there is some sort of sham competitiveness in this area but that there is a single labelling scheme which is world class, as the Minister would want it to be; that it is clear, concise and consistent; and that labelling is the same whichever shop, retailer or e-commerce site you go to, so that it can be understood more and more as time goes on.

I tabled a similar amendment in Committee, and the Minister was sort of sympathetic but did not really say that this is what the Government saw. To me, it is obvious that this has to be the case. We know from the examples of energy efficiency labelling, and I think I used the example of how you wash your clothes in a washing machine, that those are the sorts of labels that people get to know and understand over time. It is in that way that we make sure that consumers and citizens who want the right thing for the environment are able to make the right choices.

This idea is not exactly a clever one, but it is very much supported by Which?, consumer associations and—my goodness—manufacturers, because it has to make sense. On that basis, I hope the Minister can give greater reassurance from the Dispatch Box—I will not take this to a vote; no way am I going to do that—that we are going to have consistency, transparency and the ability to enable consumers, as I said, to make the right choice for the environment through this system. I am sure that is what the Government want. What we do not want is the alternative: a shopper going into one high street shop and seeing one sort of labelling system, and then going on to an e-commerce site and seeing another. That does not make sense. We do not understand that. This is not an area where we should have competition; it is an area where we should have one excellence that meets those criteria.

I could not agree more with the government amendments. When I was a board member of the Marine Management Organisation, I was absolutely clear that these areas should be self-financing, in being able to reclaim costs, which I understand is part of the rationale behind the government amendments. Unfortunately, that was rejected during the passage of the Fisheries Act, but never mind. The amendment on nappies, from the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, is on the similar theme of consumer information and in an area that we have all experienced in life, but one in which the volume and effect is huge, as the noble Baroness illustrated in Committee. It is on the similar theme of making sure that consumers understand the impact of their purchasing decisions.

My Lords, I speak to Amendment 125 in my name, kindly supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott. As the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, noted—it is a pleasure to follow his contribution—these two amendments fit together well, because they are talking about consumers who desperately want to do the right thing, but we are simply not giving them the tools to make that possible, at the moment. Noble Lords may remember the background to this amendment, and it was just referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. In Committee, I moved a broad-ranging amendment addressed particularly at disposable nappies and an encouragement to replace them with reusable nappies. The Minister at that time kindly acknowledged how much larger this issue is than perhaps people think.

Since then, at this stage of the Bill, we have seen the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, table an amendment that covers part of the same territory as mine and which seeks to promote reusables. I was delighted to attach my name to that and I am sure the House will be a little surprised, and perhaps pleased, to see the noble Baroness and me co-operate on this.

I want to look at the other side of this, which is the problem with the grave misuse and abuse of language that we see in the labelling of nappies now. Speaking as a former sub-editor, it particularly offends me. Proposed new subsection (2) of the amendment sets out the way in which phrases such as

“reusable … biodegradable … eco-friendly … environmentally friendly”

are put on nappies, because there are no legal limits to how those words can be used, and they are used misleadingly. As the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said, we have a problem of sham competitiveness. The market is out of control and regulation has failed to control the market.

To be concrete about what this means, a study carried out by YouGov at the start of the year found that 7% of nappy users wrongly put their disposable nappies into the recycling. In London, 11% of disposable nappy users were putting their nappies into the recycling. Among younger people, aged 18 to 24, 15% were putting their disposable nappies into the recycling. What does that mean? In Buckinghamshire, to take one example, 13% of lorry loads of recycling contained disposable nappies. It was estimated that, in Leicestershire, up to 4,000 disposable nappies were being removed from the recycling every day. They spoil all the material with which they come into contact, and they have to be removed by hand once they reach the sorting facility, which is extremely unpleasant and unhygienic for the person having to work in that recycling facility.

Why is this happening? A survey from 2019 carried out by the North London Waste Authority found that more than one-third of people who were doing this said that there is a recycling logo on the packaging. That may indeed mean that there is recycled plastic in the wrapping or something like that. One-fifth said it was because of the use of the term “disposable”, which they thought meant that the nappies could go into the recycling. We have to focus on how people desperately want to do the right thing and put as much as they possibly can into the recycling. Behind this, we have an industry-driven and company-driven approach to push recycling rather than reducing and reusing, which are the top two elements of the waste pyramid. We have a huge problem here.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, I do not intend to push my amendment to a vote tonight, but I do think we have to see much faster, more effective action from the Government. I suspect I shall hear in the Minister’s response terms such as “discussion”, “consultation” and “talking to the industry”. The industry is the problem. The solution is the Government putting down a line and saying, “You cannot use these words in a way that costs all of us money”. A few people and companies are profiting, and the rest of us are paying in all kinds of ways—environmentally, financially, through our local government costs and in the encounters we have, unfortunately, with nappies in places where they simply should not be. It is late. This is a big issue that covers a small area. I really would like to hear some progress from the Minister.

My Lords, I am in agreement with the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, on this amendment about nappies. Three billion a year are used in Britain. It is roughly 6,000 a baby and 8 million a day. It is a staggering number. The Ethical Consumer has found that only four brands in this very crowded market are genuinely recyclable or reusable.

I really urge the Government to take on this amendment because, especially in any area to do with babies—which I know very well from the world of baby food—the terms “sustainable”, “organic” or anything that makes you think it is all right always sells. It is a free for all, wild west market out there and, frankly, nappies are money for old rope for these companies, so they want to stick on incredible claims of all the things parents want to believe. Accepting this amendment would be doing everyone a huge favour. This is something we can do something about and we do not need to waste our time on it.

My Lords, I am grateful to those noble Lords who have spoken in this debate at this late hour. First, we support the Government’s amendments that the Minister has introduced, and we are grateful to him for his meeting on some of these subjects.

Secondly, I have every sympathy with Amendment 35 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, which would require

“clear, consistent and validated labelling”

on goods to ensure that consumers can make informed choices and care for their purchases in the most energy-efficient ways. He has given some excellent examples of the challenges consumers currently face with competing styles and content of labels. In particular, the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, drew attention to the criteria for labelling which already exist in the United Nations Environment Programme and Consumers International.

In his response to a similar debate in Committee, the Minister said:

“The precise design of future labels or other means of communicating product information will be subject to further policy development, including evidence gathering, analysis and consultation.”—[Official Report, 30/6/21; col. 880.]

In his follow-up letter, he set out how the Government were looking closely at how best to enable consumers to make more sustainable purchasing decisions. I simply say to the Minister that there is some urgency in getting on with this work. I hope that if, as we have heard, standard labelling systems are already available on an international level, we will take the opportunity to embrace those standards and apply those lessons, rather than creating a whole new system from scratch.

Finally, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, for once again raising the important issue of single-use nappy waste, the need for incentives for individuals to use reusable nappies, the need for a better campaign to inform users of the environmental damage caused by disposable nappies and the ready availability of eco-friendly alternatives. As we have heard, there are some shocking statistics about the adverse impact of millions of disposable nappies on the environment. They are being dumped in huge quantities into landfill and being misplaced into recyclable waste streams, where they contaminate whole batches of otherwise recyclable materials. As the noble Baroness rightly said, there is considerable misinformation among parents about the content of nappies and how they should be disposed of. We agree that there is a need for a huge information campaign and a cultural shift in attitudes, as well as help for those who cannot afford reusable nappies in the first place.

In the Committee debate, the Minister made it clear that Defra is taking this issue seriously, both by taking powers in the Bill to act and by commissioning an environmental assessment of the waste and energy impacts of washable and disposable products. I say to him simply that those actions cannot come soon enough and I hope he is hearing the strength of feeling and unanimity of noble Lords who have contributed to this debate.

I thank noble Lords for their contributions to this debate.

I begin with Amendment 125, proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle. We are very much aware of the environmental issues associated with absorbent hygiene products—which makes them sound a lot nicer—including those relating to incorrect disposal. We recognise the importance of the issue and have commissioned an independent environmental assessment of the relative impact of washable and disposable nappies. With that research added to the evidence base, as well as the powers in the Bill to make secondary legislation, we will be in a good position to take action where necessary and appropriate. I assure the noble Baroness that this includes action along the lines set out in her amendment.

I also assure the noble Baroness that the powers we are seeking through the Bill will allow us, among other things, to set standards for nappies and introduce labelling requirements. We will be able to mandate product labels to require specific information about products such as nappies; for example, regarding their environmental impact or how best to dispose of them. We will also be able to introduce a requirement for products to have marks or symbols signifying that they meet certain standards.

Briefly, in response to the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, on a point also made by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, new guidance to be produced shortly by the Competition and Markets Authority will address issues relating to environmental claims. That, we hope, will help business to both understand and comply with its existing obligations under consumer protection law.

I turn to Amendment 35, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. I reassure noble Lords that the powers he is asking for in his amendment are already covered by the powers set out in Schedule 6. In fact, it is fair to say that the powers in the Bill are broader than the amendment specifies; for example, we are able to regulate how information might be provided. I agree that it is essential for labelling to be consistent, simple, clear and understandable, and that will be a central consideration as we develop and introduce regulations.

I end by agreeing and very much empathising with the frustration expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones. Like all my colleagues in Defra, we want this work to happen very quickly. There is an unavoidable process but we are pushing as hard as we can. I hope that I have managed to reassure noble Lords that the Government are aware of the environmental issues associated with absorbent hygiene products as well as the importance of clear, consistent labelling regimes. That is why we have included powers in the Bill to tackle those specific issues. I ask noble Lords to not move their amendments.

I understand that this is Report and I seek clarification. The problem is that this is a broader issue, as the Minister said. I am just trying to clarify whether the Government are committed to a single, consistent system of labelling in terms of recycling and extended producer responsibility. Will there be one system or is it still open for there to be multiple systems?

I can confirm to the noble Lord that we will do everything we can to ensure a simple, understandable and clear system. I cannot tell him whether there will be a single system but clarity, simplicity and transparency are absolutely the driving considerations.

The Minister said that the Government would seek to help businesses understand their obligations. I hope—perhaps he can reassure me—that the intention is to regulate the activities of businesses so that they do not continue to profit while the rest of us pay.

The goal is to ensure that businesses understand their obligations under existing law and to avoid the problem of misleading labels around environmental performance. If the evidence points us towards regulation, then that is what we will do.

Amendment 34 agreed.

Schedule 6: Resource efficiency information

Amendment 35 not moved.

Amendment 36 not moved.

Schedule 8: Deposit schemes

Amendments 37 and 39 not moved.

Consideration on Report adjourned.

Motion to Adjourn

Moved by

House adjourned at 9.51 pm.