§ The Minister for the Environment (Mr. Michael Meacher)
The strategy unit published its report"Waste not, Want not" in November last year. It looked at how England can tackle its growing waste problem and how to meet EU Landfill Directive targets, which require big cuts in the amount of biodegradable municipal waste sent to landfill. Waste in the UK continues to rise at 3 per cent. per year—faster than GDP and faster than in most other nations. If we carry on as we are the waste mountain will double by 2020, adding £1.6 billion per year to waste disposal costs.26WS
The strategy unit has made a wide range of recommendations to address waste, ranging from how we can generate less waste, through to the safest, most sustainable way to manage it if we cannot avoid producing it. They have been very clear that we urgently need to take further steps to tackle the waste challenge and the Government fully endorse that message.
The Government welcome the strategy unit report and today I am publishing our response to it. We accept the majority of the recommendations and support the direction or intent of many of the others.
We have already acted in the following key areas:Landfill Tax will be increased by £3 per tonne in 2005–06 and by at least £3 per tonne in the years thereafter, on the way to a medium to long term rate of £35 per tonne. This will be the foundation for the economic framework the strategy unit recommended;the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme has been reformed and a proportion of the funding—£84/92/92m—will be redirected to a new sustainable waste management programme in England in 2003–04, 2004–05 and 2005–06;the Sustainable Waste Management Programme will concentrate on improving waste minimisation, recycling and composting, and researching new technologies for dealing with those wastes which are not readily reduced, reused or recycled. The programme will assist local authorities to increase doorstep collection of recyclable materials such as paper, garden waste, glass and cans, and encourage increased home composting and the use of reusable nappies;a new Delivery Team and Steering Group is being established in Defra to drive forward implementation of the Government's response to the strategy unit report and new programmes of work in Defra, WRAP and the Environment Agency;Local authority funding of £90m each year for 2004–05 and 2005–06 has been provided for the waste minimisation and recycling fund or its successor performance reward fund.
The paper published today sets out the Government's detailed response to each of the strategy unit's recommendations. It also includes a table which indicates follow-up action, who has lead responsibility and the timetable.
The Government recognise the need to work closely and collaboratively with the range of bodies engaged in waste management. In particular, the Environment Agency—as Government's key regulator of waste and with its extensive network of operators on the ground—will have a major contribution to make to some of the new programmes of work, and the Local Government Association will have a vital role to play in advising on the programmes aimed at driving up local government performance on waste. The waste industry and the voluntary sector also have an important role to play in our changing approach.
We have challenging recycling and composting targets to meet in the near future. I believe our response today to this strategy unit report takes us closer to a more sustainable future for waste management. But achieving this requires us all, as householders, to play our part in reducing waste and increasing reuse, recycling and composting.27WS
The Government recognise that long term progress in sustainable waste management will require a refocus in thinking from seeing waste as a problem to the good management of resources so that waste is avoided altogether. There are strong links between the work recommended by the strategy unit and that being carried out in the development of the sustainable Consumption and Production Strategy which I am planning to publish later this year.
Copies of the Government response have been lodged in both Libraries of the House.