Previous SectionIndexHome Page

14 Mar 2003 : Column 567—continued

Sue Doughty: Will my hon. Friend advise me on how to convince Conservative and Labour councillors on Guildford borough council of the worth of such schemes? After a successful trial for collecting garden waste that increased recycling by 1.5 per cent. and would have led to a 6 per cent. increase, they voted down the

14 Mar 2003 : Column 568

scheme. Will she give us some words of encouragement that we could use to convince the councillors who oppose recycling?

Mrs. Calton: I can only marvel at their opposition. They should visit Stockport and see what is being done.

Andrew Bennett (Denton and Reddish): I am pleased that the council is working to provide green wheelie bins for garden waste and some domestic food waste. However, that is happening in the leafy parts of Stockport. In Reddish, the old black bags continue to be used. They suffer attacks by, for example, foxes, so much household waste in such areas is strewn around the streets. Is not it time for Stockport to consider the poorer as well as the rich parts of the borough?

Mrs. Calton: I thought when the hon. Gentleman came in that he would probably make a point along those lines. I accept that most of the initial implementation of the green waste scheme has taken place in the Cheadle area, but I think that he misunderstands the position if he thinks the green wheelie bins were introduced to replace black bags. In fact, green wheelie bin collection supplements black bag collection. I think that if he puts the case for rapid implementation of the scheme in his area to the council, it will be brought in throughout the area just as doorstep collection of paper was: virtually no part of Stockport does not enjoy that service now. Some flats, of course, will not have much garden waste. I am sure that if he works closely with his local authority it will be keen to work with him—just as it is, I think, our purpose today to work together on an issue on which there is no difference between the parties.

A further 15,000 green wheelie bins have been ordered, and will soon be provided throughout my borough. I was not convinced that those resistant to the idea of recycling would be all that keen on the bins, but my husband—who took longest to get the recycling message in our household—is now an avid user of the green bin. He is happy to go into the garden and fill it up every weekend if he gets the chance. There is hope for us all now that my husband has got the message.

A pilot scheme in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove (Mr. Stunell) has extended the paper collection system, which is now a multi-material collection, including glass and cans. The value of such schemes is demonstrated by the fact that there has been a 75 per cent. participation rate, and a doubling of the quantity of paper collected.

Other innovative schemes have been introduced in Stockport. Home composting, for instance, has been linked to low-energy light bulb sales. Recently 1,900 composters were sold to members of the public in Stockport; at the same time 11,000 low-energy bulbs were sold. That happened in a single day. The bulbs will save enough energy in a year to light Stockport's streets for a month. Such schemes show how much Stockport is doing.

More than 70 per cent. of schools in the borough have been involved in the schools waste action club. In the past year, 22 have had SWAC visits, 21 have had dustbin/recycling assemblies, four have engaged in paper-making activities and five have engaged in waste

14 Mar 2003 : Column 569

audits. Cycler the rapping robot has visited three schools, and two have introduced composting. Someone said earlier that people needed to see what happened to waste and where it went. Accompanied external educational visits have been arranged for interested schools to sites such as the Adswood eco centre, the Bredbury refuse treatment plant and the Bolton thermal recovery facility.

I said earlier that Stockport was the highest achieving metropolitan authority in the north-west; in fact, I understand that it is the highest in England, and a leader in the field of waste management. I would like to pay tribute to Paul Dunn and the waste management team for their excellent work over a number of years. They really have put Stockport ahead of the field among metropolitan boroughs, but they would be the first to accept that that is nowhere near good enough and that much more needs to be done.

As this is a discussion that cuts across party lines, I would also like to pay tribute to the Government's input. There has been funding in recent years to support the expansion of recycling in Stockport. The Greater Manchester waste disposal authority has had a £2.5 million grant from the Government to improve 22 civic amenity sites, and £200,000 has come into Stockport for additional garden waste vehicles. Such has been the success of that scheme that another vehicle is now needed to enable all the waste to be collected. A further £750,000 has come in for additional vehicles and containers for the multi-material collection. I hope that those sums will soon be evident not only in what was described earlier as the leafier parts of the borough, but in the parts represented by the hon. Members for Stockport (Ms Coffey) and for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Bennett).

12.26 pm

Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire): May I, too, heap compliments on the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock)? The Bill has obviously received overwhelming support in the House from all the parties present today. Indeed, this issue has resonated throughout our constituencies, if my postbag is anything to go by.

For some of my constituents, the term "kerbside recycling" is a bit of a misnomer, because they live so far from any recognisable kerb that they would not know where to go to find one. Indeed, the reason that they live where they do is that there are no kerbs anywhere near them. The terms "doorstep" or "roadside" recycling are, however, readily recognisable. In rural areas, recycling presents real problems in terms of how people access the recycling centres, because the journeys involved are often very long and some people do not have access to private transport. Public transport is obviously not really suitable for taking rubbish to recycling centres, and it is an expense for local authorities to get round all the houses to collect sorted and recyclable material.

I would like to compliment the way in which the Bill has been drafted in terms of the devolved settlement for Wales and the responsibility that has been given to the Assembly to set targets for recycling and composting rates for waste collection. It is important to have

14 Mar 2003 : Column 570

national targets, but they are sometimes more easily achievable if they are broken down. Wales certainly wants to play its part in achieving those targets. The hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas) has already pointed out that the target that has been set in Wales is probably higher than the one set in England, although it is not as high as the one in the Bill. That target is achievable, and we must not duck the responsibility to achieve it, because it is almost the minimum that we should be going for.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) talked about the low cost of primary products being the one thing that makes it difficult for recycling to achieve good economic results. If the cost of such products were a good deal higher, the whole business of recycling would become a profitable rather than a loss-making operation. More people would then want to be involved in it, which would make the whole operation a lot easier for local authorities.

Some elements that go into recyclable products, such as timber used in paper making, are renewable, but oil, which is the basis of most plastic produced in this country, is strictly finite, so we should conserve and look after it to the very best of our ability, as less of it will be available to succeeding generations. That raises one little issue. Clause 2(3)(a) refers to waste disposal and collection authorities publishing a report on the "volume of waste collected". I am not sure whether targets are set on weight or on volume.

Joan Ruddock: The hon. Gentleman is the first person to spot the deliberate mistake. The Bill should refer to quantity. Weight is used currently, but there are arguments for volume. We shall seek to make that small amendment in Committee, should we get there.

Mr. Williams: I thank the hon. Lady. That issue has been raised with me by my local authority. It is keen to recycle plastics, but they do not contribute a lot to the targets that it is trying to achieve as the weight of that product is not great. As I have said previously, however, plastics are the one thing that we ought to be concentrating on, as they are based on oil, which is such a limited resource for future generations.

It is important that young people and communities in particular are involved in recycling projects, and I shall draw two examples to the attention of the House. The first is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik) at Cae Post near Trewern, where young people have been involved in sorting plastic for recycling. The effect has been to find customers for plastic that was not thought to be of high enough quality to recycle, which not only provides employment for young people who have found it difficult to get jobs, but ensures that plastic that previously went to landfill or to incineration now goes to recycling.

The second example involves the fact, which a number of hon. Members have mentioned, that plastic is used to a greater and greater extent in the agriculture sector. It is difficult to dispose of in an environmentally sensitive way, but the young farmers' club in the Brecon area in my constituency has put in place a system whereby the young farmers, working together in their clubs, bring all the plastic to one collecting site on a

14 Mar 2003 : Column 571

particular farm. A commercial organisation called P. and M. Birch then collects it on a reasonably economic basis, although it needs some funding from the Assembly and local authorities. Plastic that has either accumulated on farms or would have been burned by farmers is now disposed of perfectly properly and in an environmentally sensitive way.

Next Section

IndexHome Page