Previous SectionIndexHome Page

14 Mar 2003 : Column 530—continued

Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North): I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend on producing such an excellent Bill. Does she agree that one of the problems in establishing a viable market for plastics recycling in the United Kingdom is the export packaging recovery note—EPRN—which makes it cheaper for some companies here to export plastic to China, where it is cleaned and separated and then imported back to the UK? That is nonsense, given the patterns of world trade and the impact of transport on the environment. When the Bill goes into Committee, as we hope it will, will my hon. Friend ensure that there is some discussion of the operation of the EPRN system?

Joan Ruddock: I shall refer later to an exhibition that I held earlier this week. One of the companies that attended showed me photographs from the far east of people on rickshaw-type vehicles carrying mountains of plastic bottles that had been exported from Britain. My hon. Friend is right that that problem needs to be addressed, and I hope that we will have an opportunity to discuss it further in Committee.

Mr. Mark Hoban (Fareham): Is the hon. Lady aware that Fareham borough council, which recycles a high proportion of its waste, provides a facility for households to separate plastic bottles and packaging for recycling? I am surprised that a number of hon. Members have expressed concern about councils' ability to do that, as Fareham borough council does it very successfully.

Joan Ruddock: Some councils have made that choice about the waste stream. There is a question about procedures depending on the weight of recyclates. Plastic is light, and many councils have opted to deal with heavier products first. That is one issue, but there is another issue about light recyclates taking up a huge volume inside council vehicles. There are therefore many interesting things to discuss if the Bill goes into Committee.

John Austin (Erith and Thamesmead): I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way to me, as she has already given way so many times. I thank her for coming to Thamesmead in my constituency, where she visited Green Works, which recycles and reuses office furniture that would otherwise go to landfill or incineration, and Ecopark, run by the Gallions housing association, which has a number of environmentally friendly energy-saving features built into it, including in situ waste separation and can crushing. Was she impressed by that project, and does she think that it is a model for other developers, whether private, local authority or housing association? Does she share my concern that our system,

14 Mar 2003 : Column 531

unlike the Dutch system, has no financial incentive for developers to include environmentally friendly measures in their developments?

Joan Ruddock: I am most grateful to my hon. Friend—[Interruption.] He bought me a sandwich, as well as a cup of tea. How could I resist telling him how impressed I was by that excellent development? May I explain briefly to Members that above ground there were just ordinary-sized bins for different recyclates, but there was a huge well below ground where material was collected and from which it was extracted? It is a state-of-the-art facility, and I was delighted to see it. Yes, I believe that there should be incentives to encourage such projects.

Landfill is still far too cheap in this country. In Denmark and Austria landfill tax is twice the UK level. The heavy reliance on cheap landfill in this country has been a disincentive to the development of recycling and composting. A survey of public attitudes to quality of life and the environment in 2001 found a 10 per cent. drop from five years earlier in the proportion of people separating glass and cans from their waste. When asked why they did not recycle more, the most common response given by a quarter of the respondents was that they had no doorstep recycling service. The second most common response was that recycling facilities were too far away. For me, that says it all.

The strategy unit report "Waste not, Want not" commissioned polling by MORI and corroborated the earlier findings. Demand for kerbside recycling was high—three in four respondents said that they would recycle more if facilities were available to them.

Ms Julia Drown (South Swindon): I congratulate my hon. Friend on her Bill, and I am pleased to say that a huge number of constituents have written and asked me to be present today in support of it. They are keen to get involved in recycling. If the Bill is successful, when does my hon. Friend estimate that they will have the doorstep recycling scheme that they are so keen to take part in?

Joan Ruddock: What a question! That will depend on many factors—among which, clearly, are central Government, and the ability of individual local authorities to raise their act. There is already a huge spectrum of activity among local authorities, some doing virtually nothing and some doing a great deal. Our aim, which I shall explain further when I get to the details of the Bill, is that there should be a service for every household. If the Bill is successful, we expect that by 2010. That might seem a long way off to some, but because we start from so far behind in this country, seven years is very ambitious.

Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon): My hon. Friend has been generous in giving way. I congratulate her on her Bill. My question concerns recycling in dense urban environments, where many people live in blocks of flats, which are sometimes tall. It may be difficult for people to schlep great boxes of stuff for recycling down to the kerbside. Some local authorities will collect only from blocks of flats where there has been a vote in the block

14 Mar 2003 : Column 532

and the majority want the recycling facility. How does my hon. Friend think her Bill can accommodate the problem of people living in blocks of flats?

Joan Ruddock: For many blocks of flats, the most that a local authority would be prepared to do—and this is how the Bill is worded—is to collect the material for recycling from the point at which the refuse is currently collected. In my constituency, that means that at the bottom of blocks of flats there is usually a bin shelter into which people take their rubbish. I hope that those will be improved, as some of the bin shelters are a disgrace. We expect that there would be a facility where people would place their separated materials for recycling, and another for their residual refuse. That is the most straightforward way available to people in blocks of flats. However, I know of one local authority in London—I fear my memory is not—[Interruption.] It is suggested to me that that could be Hounslow—

Ann Keen (Brentford and Isleworth): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Joan Ruddock: I shall finish the point, then my hon. Friend will know whether she has been able to anticipate me. That local authority has a very sound arrangement with its caretakers, whereby a basket for recyclable material is placed outside the doors of the flats, and the caretakers collect from those baskets into a wheeled facility and take it in the lift to the collection point. So it is possible to arrange collection from people's doorsteps, even for flats. That is the optimum arrangement. I do not anticipate that most local authorities will do that, although it would be good if they did.

Ann Keen: The London borough of Hounslow, which is in my constituency, provides a green box service to residents of low and high-rise flats. It is a beacon council, and I would be honoured if my hon. Friend would accompany me to Hounslow to look at the scheme.

Several hon. Members rose—

Joan Ruddock: I wonder how many more Hounslow Members there are—

Mr. Colin Challen (Morley and Rothwell): I congratulate my hon. Friend not only on the Bill, but on giving way so often. Clearly, there is great variability between local authorities in the ways in which they achieve the various waste targets. The Government recognised that in their waste strategy by stating that authorities that have not performed very well do not have to perform a great deal better just to double what they have achieved in the past. How would my hon. Friend's Bill interact with those targets? Does she see great opportunities in the Bill for more partnership working between authorities, spreading good practice and so on?

Joan Ruddock: On the latter point, it is one of the hallmarks of our Government that we have encouraged the sharing of good practice, given beacon status to authorities, and so on. That is important. If my hon.

14 Mar 2003 : Column 533

Friend will allow me to make some progress, I shall explain all the points that he needs to know when I come to the details of the Bill. He might like to intervene again at that point.

Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet): For the record, I shall be available in the Lobby to support the hon. Lady's Bill if it is put to a vote, which I think it may not be. I appreciate that we are dragging her into detail that she intends to address later, but the points that have been raised about doorstep collection are significant, especially to the elderly. Canterbury city council has a scheme that I believe to be working quite well, but considerable numbers of the people living in the area are elderly. They have been told in some cases that the dustmen will collect only from the pavement, not from the doorstep. When clause 3 and the duties of the waste disposal authority are debated in Committee, will the hon. Lady consider amendments and pay particular attention to the need to make sure that if the scheme is to operate as we all hope it will, it is easy to operate so that people want to participate in it?

Next Section

IndexHome Page