Draft Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) (Amendment) (England and Wales) Regulations 2000

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Mr. Corbyn: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, but my point is not only that there should be less packaging—we all agree about that. When plastic packaging is used, it should be recyclable and it would be better to insist on biodegradeable packaging. Rubbish dumps in this country are full of useless plastic bags that have an average use life of eight minutes.

Mr. Mullin: I accept that, and in our waste strategy the Government are coming to grips with all those problems. They have been neglected for too long and the learning curve is steep.

The obligations on waste minimisation provide an incentive to reduce tonnage by reducing the amount of materials used. We are also trying to implement the consumer information obligation in the directive; our contribution to that initiative is the ``Are You Doing Your Bit?'' campaign. Not enough people are yet doing their bit, and there is much progress to be made.

Mr. Don Foster: The contributions of hon. Members illustrate the fact that many people have a specific concern about these issues. The Minister said in response to my earlier question that 10,000 businesses were consulted. Does he think that that is satisfactory, when many people other than businesses and business organisations have an interest in the matter?

Mr. Mullin: Yes, I recognise that. We take the opinions of many relevant organisations—many of which are offered to us for free, without our having to search for them. The wording used is that packaging must be recoverable; it can be recovered by recycling, incineration, composting or biodegradation. As I said, there is an inbuilt incentive to minimise the amount of material used in the first place.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: The Government have a perfectly good hierarchy which should be more generally known. It would encompass all the matters about which hon. Members have asked: reduction, re-use, recovery, recycling and reprocessing. The Minister did not answer my earlier question; would he now do so by telling the Committee how the new targets and regulations will affect that hierarchy?

Mr. Mullin: The hon. Gentleman took the words from my mouth. We do indeed have that hierarchy, and the regulations will take us some way towards achieving some—although not all, by any stretch of the imagination—of our ambitions. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is not arguing that by abandoning or not enforcing the regulations too strictly we can meet our obligations through some other means. We have to apply all the measures and change the culture in this country, as all industrial countries have. We lag a little behind but are catching up, which is the purpose of making sure that we meet our international obligations next year, as I am confident that we will. After we have met them, we can look, as the hon. Member for Ashford put it, at more radical changes to the system, which will probably have to be agreed in discussions with our international partners. There may be initiatives that we can undertake but we will not consider them until we have achieved that first, basic target. We will in due course want to set more ambitious targets in the years ahead.

Question put and agreed to.


    That the Committee has considered the draft Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) (Amendment) (England and Wales) Regulations 2000.

Committee rose at eighteen minutes past Five o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
O'Brien, Mr. Bill (Chairman)
Ainsworth, Mr. Robert
Barron, Mr.
Brake, Mr.
Clifton-Brown, Mr.
Corbyn, Mr.
Foster, Mr. Don
Green, Mr.
Kilfoyle, Mr.
Lewis, Mr. Terry
Mullin, Mr.
Pearson, Mr.
Rooney, Mr.
Sedgemore, Mr.
Temple-Morris, Mr.
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Wilkinson, Mr.

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Prepared 29 November 2000