Page last updated at 08:32 GMT, Tuesday, 19 January 2010

MPs criticise 'vague' plans to reduce business waste

Waste management
Household recycling has increased, say MPs

The government must toughen its approach to cutting landfill - with firm targets for companies and food waste recycling for homes, say MPs.

Policies focus on household waste which makes up 9% of the 330m tonnes England produces a year, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee says.

Their report says firm plans to deal with business waste must replace "vague ambitions and rhetoric".

It says 23% less waste went to landfill in England and Wales in 2007 than 2001.

The use of disposal plastic carriers has also dropped - from 13bn in 2007-8 to 10bn in 2008-9 - the committee's report says.

Cheap clothing

The wide-ranging paper looks at the government's Waste Strategy for England.

It says some progress has been made getting homes to recycle more - with nearly 37% being recycled or composted in England. Household waste also reduced by 3% in 2008 and fly tipping dropped by 9%.

But it says more effort should be made to reduce waste thrown away in the first place.

Defra should have the courage of its convictions and go for a more ambitious timescale to implement this change by 2015
MPs report

It points to an increase in "textile waste" sent to landfill - which waste operatives had dubbed the "Primark effect", assuming people throw away cheap clothing more quickly.

Asda, which has its own George clothing line, told MPs it was moving away from "fast fashion" in response to people's demands for more sustainable clothing.

The government should set "more ambitious" targets to recycle 50% of household waste by 2015 and 60% by 2020, the committee says.

'Few firm targets'

But the committee says the government has failed to address waste from the industrial and commercial sectors sufficiently - expressing only an "expectation" that their waste levels would be reduced by 20% over six years from 2004.

Apart from a target to halve total construction, demolition and excavation waste sent to landfill by 2012, there were "few firm targets" for "non-household" waste, which accounts for 90% of total waste.

There was a "significant gap" in details of what businesses were doing to tackle waste because it was not being properly surveyed.

At the same time it must encourage companies to take a completely new view of waste and see it as a valuable source of raw material
Michael Jack
Committee chairman

And the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs had "failed to set firm targets for these sectors".

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has announced Defra will consult this year on banning some substances from landfill "by 2020 at the latest".

But the committee said it was "too generous" to let another decade go by before banning some waste altogether.

"Defra should have the courage of its convictions and go for a more ambitious timescale to implement this change by 2015," it says.

The report says a third of all food bought is thrown away - about 6.7m tonnes a year generating more carbon dioxide than four million cars - and says more needs to be done to persuade people to change their behaviour.

Food waste

Institutions such as schools, hospitals and Parliament should be encouraged to compost food waste, it says.

Food waste should be collected from homes, separately from other waste - especially those properties which cannot compost - and the government should set itself "a target for mandatory collection of food waste".

Committee chairman Conservative MP Michael Jack said Defra "must give a clear lead" on reducing business waste.

"At the same time it must encourage companies to take a completely new view of waste and see it as a valuable source of raw material which must not be squandered in these difficult economic times."

A Defra spokeswoman said the government wanted to see all local authorities collecting food waste: "Our latest research is very encouraging as it shows that separate food waste collections are definitely working in the areas that are using them, and - more importantly - people are happy with them.

"We would like to see all local authorities collecting food waste as soon as possible and by 2020 at the latest."



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