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14 Mar 2003 : Column 537—continued

Mr. Richard Bacon (South Norfolk): What a shame.

Joan Ruddock: I agree with the hon. Gentleman, but I was not sure whether the dress code of the Commons would allow me to wear the fleece, which was beautiful, warm and soft and as good as anything that one could buy in any high street, but was made from recycled plastic bottles, which is quite unbelievable. Instead, I have settled for a beer can, which I am sure hon. Members will be pleased to know was recycled into the jewellery that I am wearing.

Mr. Mark Francois (Rayleigh): On markets, like a number of other colleagues who have chipped in, I am a member of the Select Committee on Environmental Audit, which last week visited a major recycling centre run by Cleanaway in east London. The centre now has a successful process for recycling garden waste and turning it into compost that can be used domestically and by companies. As a Member of Parliament who is particularly opposed to seeing any incinerators in Essex, I was encouraged by the process, which I wanted to introduce to the debate as a practical example of what can be done.

Joan Ruddock: As a keen gardener, I can tell the hon. Gentleman how much I support the work on producing compost. The most exciting thing that I saw at my exhibition this week was what appeared to be a green plastic plant pot that was wholly recyclable. One cannot discern the difference from a normal pot, and I understand that the product is soon to be on sale in this country. One company—I think it is Homebase—says that it sells a thousand miles of plastic pots a year. Those will all be replaced by completely compostible pots. He is right to raise such important issues; we are a nation of gardeners, after all.

Norman Baker (Lewes): While we are considering innovative recycling, may I tell the hon. Lady that I have a constituent who had a couple of gallstones removed and has made them into very attractive earrings?

Joan Ruddock: Although I am keen to wear recycled jewellery, I am not planning a gallstone operation.

I also heard from a number of the very big companies. Apex, another important company—it provided all the recycled compost for the Eden project—and Aylesford Newsprint told me that they had no problem finding markets and that they wanted certainty and quality of recyclates supply. The chairman of Glasspac told Friends of the Earth:

Alupro, the not-for-profit company sponsored by leading can, sheet and foil rollers, told Friends of the Earth:

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Dirk Hazell, director of the Environmental Services Association, told us that, if there were regulatory certainty, his members would be ready to invest about £1 billion in plant and equipment in the UK. That £1 billion is available now. Andy Doran of LARAC said that he was

I turn now to the question of costs, which is very important. It is difficult to quantify either present or future costs and I look to my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment for help in due course with this matter. LARAC has said:

Friends of the Earth has attempted a calculation based on the average cost of existing schemes, subtracting the savings that would be made on landfill and adding the revenue from selling recyclables. The overall annual cost for England and Wales would be about £400 million at today's prices by 2010. The ESA has done a calculation without deductions, which is, of course, much higher, but it emphasises that there is a dramatic drop in costs once the collection threshold has passed from 25 to 45 per cent.

I am aware, however, that £100 million has already been put into public finance initiatives that are mainly for incineration, and that £114 million is available in the waste minimisation and recycling fund. A further £100 million is being directed from the landfill tax credit scheme, and I understand that approximately half that money will be available to local authorities.

Mr. Don Foster (Bath): My local authority, Bath and North East Somerset council, was the first authority to introduce a zero-waste policy and it is the best unitary authority in terms of recycling. On cost, does the hon. Lady accept that if in parallel to implementation of her Bill, which I entirely support, much greater efforts were made to reduce waste in the first instance, there would be less need for recycling and costs would fall? For example, it took me almost seven minutes to separate the shirt that I am wearing from the packaging in which it was sold.

Joan Ruddock: I thank the hon. Gentleman for making those points. Time is passing and I know that many other hon. Members wish to speak, so I will say only that there is a gap in the calculations, but many ideas about how it might be filled. Again, we could explore those issues further if there were time to do so.

Let me turn briefly to the detail of the Bill. In this context, I want to thank Martyn Williams of Friends of the Earth for the huge amount of assistance that he has given me in preparing the Bill, and my assistant, Heidi Alexander, who has worked extremely hard. Clause 1 places a duty on the Secretary of State to provide an overarching framework for UK recycling policy, to ensure that 50 per cent. of municipal waste in the UK is

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recycled or composted by 2010. The target is a UK target, as one of the key drivers of the policy is the need to meet the landfill directive, which is, of course, a UK duty. The Bill therefore requires the Secretary of State to consult all the devolved Administrations.

As to ensuring that the 50 per cent. target is met, clause 1(2) requires the setting of targets for local authorities in England and Wales, to be carried out by the Secretary of State and the National Assembly for Wales respectively. Scotland has its own strategy, which currently aims to achieve 38 per cent. recycling and composting by 2010 and to provide a doorstep service for 85 per cent. of households, despite the fact that Scotland starts from a much lower base than England. After the Secretary of State has produced his report on targets, clause 2 gives local authorities a further six months in which to draw up a sustainable waste strategy for their area.

Subsection (2) would set two objectives of the strategy: minimising waste and promoting reuse and recycling; and ensuring that all households in an area may access services provided. I have received representations from Help the Aged and others who are worried that elderly people might find distant bring-banks difficult to access owing to their lack of cars and inability to carry recyclables.

Subsection (3) would require annual reporting of the quantity of waste collected, composted and recycled. It is important to produce a report that would enable people to see that access was being expanded, which is an important part of the strategy.

Clause 3 would ensure that materials collected by waste collection authorities were of the best possible quality and of high value. As of last week, a similar clause has been included in the Waste and Emissions Trading Bill, and if the Municipal Waste Recycling Bill reaches the Committee stage, we shall take a sensible view and remove the clause rather than duplicating the other Bill.

The Bill is ambitious and sets a very ambitious target for recycling and composting. I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister has serious reservations about the target, but given his commitment to the environment, I urge him to rise to the challenge. We both know that other European countries have achieved the targets and that a couple of English authorities are close to achieving them.

I shall end on a personal note. Try as I may to minimise my waste, it continues to accumulate at an alarming rate. With two MPs in my household, it would never be easy to take recyclables to bring-banks. A local organisation called Aquarius Recycling has provided a solution. It collects all our newspapers, magazines, card, plastic bottles, glass bottles and tin cans from our doorstep every week, at a cost of £7 per month. That system works. Our wheelie-bin waste has reduced by at least 50 per cent., although I confess that I am still struggling with our home composter.

I know that not everyone can pay for that, but I want everyone's local authority to provide the service that I have for my home. If the Bill is supported today, I hope that that will become a reality.

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10.22 am

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Mid-Bedfordshire): I congratulate the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) on her choice of subject for the Bill. I join her in congratulating Friends of the Earth on the considerable amount of work that it has done. As one who first entered Parliament in 1983 but who has never managed to appear in the top six on the ballot, I envy her the opportunity to introduce an important and necessary measure.

All the parties have been promising doorstep recycling for every household in the country for some time. The national average municipal waste recycling rate of 12 per cent. suggests that the Government have been painfully slow in catching up with the popular clamour from citizens, the green lobby and environmental industries.

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