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Mr. Bill O'Brien (Normanton): It is always interesting to follow the hon. Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce) in a debate. He mentioned kerbside collection, and the fact that the Liberal Democrats estimated that it would cost, I think, £200,000 to implement such a scheme. Obviously, if that was the right figure, there would be no hesitation in doing so. However, I received today a report from the UK waste management industry entitled "Facing the Facts", which is published by Onyx. It states:
I want to express my appreciation to my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Bennett), who chaired our Committee and worked very hard to ensure that the work of the Committee was constructive and directed so that we could publish the report that we are discussing tonight. Members of the Committee appreciate the work that our colleague has done as Chairman.
As a member of the Transport, Local Government and the Regions Committee, I want to raise certain issues that I consider important to the Committee and to the industry involved with waste and packaging. I also wish to declare that I am the co-chair of the all-party sustainable waste
I live near a Rockware Glass factory. I am told that within a 10-mile radius of that factory, 30,000 to 40,000 tonnes of glass go into landfills every week because there are no procedures to extract it from the waste stream. Every ounce could be recycled, turned into cullet and returned to the system. Similarly, the aluminium industry will take all the aluminium waste that it can recover. The steel, paper and board and plastics industries are crying out for material to be recovered. Most of this is municipal or household waste. I agree with the hon. Member for Gordon that we should press the issue. I am sure that my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State and the Minister for the Environment are familiar with such demands, and that their recent initiatives will help.
There are threats that civic amenity sites could be taken from my own authority of Wakefield and offered to the private sector. They are purpose built and they operate efficiently, so I would consider removing them from local authority operation a sin. We have recycling targets and the main one for recycling or composting household waste is at least 25 per cent. by 2005, increasing to 30 per cent. by 2010 and 33 per cent. by 2015. The civic amenity sites can play a major part in meeting those targets, so I plead with the Minister to ensure that their development is encouraged, as outlined and recommended by the Committee.
I sat on the Standing Committee that considered the establishment of the Environment Agency under the Environment Act 1995there was a Division over that legislationand the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 1997 followed. Under the regulations, material manufacture was to bear 6 per cent. of the responsibility for the finished product; converting materials to packaging, 11 per cent.; packing and filling, 36 per cent.; and the retailerssupermarkets and others47 per cent.
There was a tremendous imbalance there, because the retailers collected all the waste and sat on it, as they had much more than their 47 per cent. The packaging recovery note system was the currency through which people could purchase waste from those with a surplus to enable them to meet their targets as outlined in the packaging waste regulations. We were told that they would apply for five years, but after the 1997 election my colleague the Minister for the Environment listened to the industry's pleas and agreed to review the producer responsibilities and the obligations under the regulations.
A consultation document was published in 1997 and slight adjustments were made to those percentages, which benefited the industry, but they did not go far enough to redress the advantages that the retail peoplethe supermarketsenjoyed under the regulations. The document says:
Recently, however, there has been anger among people in the packaging industry because of a statement made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industrythere are problems when departmental boundaries cross. She announced that the new code, as recommended by the Competition Commission and involving the supermarkets,
We should use the recycling process. We need to undertake more recycling, so if we can obtain more material through the waste system, it will help to offset some of the industry's problems and the extra costsincluding those from increased administrationthat it has to bear. My plea to my right hon. Friend is that we implement kerbside collection as quickly as possible. We must extract between 30,000 and 40,000 tonnes a week of glass and other materials for recycling. That will help to make our packaging industries more efficient and accountable, and environmentally friendly.