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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 May, 2003, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
More homes recycling rubbish
Rubbish tip
Municipal waste has increased to 28.8m tonnes
Recycling of household waste increased last year, but total municipal rubbish also increased, UK Government figures show.

The proportion of household waste recycled in England, including composting, rose from 11.2% in 2000/01 to 12.4% in 2001/02, Environment Minister Michael Meacher said on Thursday.

But there was a 2.4% increase in the total amount of municipal waste, up from 28.1 million tonnes in 2000/01 to an estimated 28.8 million tonnes in 2001/02.

The recycling figures were released as the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said the government was "too timid" in dealing with rubbish disposal and its policy "lacks direction".

Mr Meacher praised the increase in recycling, saying household waste recycling had almost doubled since 1996, and was expected to rise to at least 13% in 2003.

Food packaging

Packaging of supermarket ready meals and other food products contributed a large amount to household rubbish bins, while fast food outlets and coffee shops generated a lot of litter.

The UK produces enough waste to fill the Albert Hall every hour, and we have to change the way we deal with it
David Curry

Mr Meacher said the government was considering a range of options to deal with this kind of rubbish.

"We do need to have one way of addressing this problem. I get more letters about packaging waste than anything else," he said.

The EFRA committee advocates moving away from focusing on landfills and incinerators towards recycling, re-use and waste minimisation.

It also says the government is using the landfill tax "timidly" and it should be raised to 35 per tonne if it is to have a significant impact.

Committee chairman David Curry MP said: "The UK produces enough waste to fill the Albert Hall every hour, and we have to change the way we deal with it.

"The easy option of dumping virtually everything into landfill is closing down.

"Reducing the volume of waste and diverting waste from landfill requires a determined response from government - and that has so far been lacking."

Landfill tax

The committee also suggests other taxes and charges on households for getting rid of rubbish could be used.

"Addressing the issue is a matter of urgency," said Mr Curry.

"Quite apart from the environmental damage and economic wastage of the current approach to waste management the government is obliged by European legislation to change tack."

The report is the conclusion of a four-month inquiry during which the committee heard evidence from a number of interested bodies and Mr Meacher.

It also heard from representatives of the waste disposal industry and local authorities, as well as visiting recycling plants in London, Leicestershire, Rutland and Denmark.

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