MPs rubbish government’s waste strategy

The House of Commons Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs (ETRA) Committee has condemned the government’s strategy for improving waste management as “Depressing”, “woefully inadequate” and “an awkward and underfunded compromise”.


Responding to last May’s official waste strategy for England and Wales (see related story), on 20 March, the Committee criticised the governmental policy on incineration and called for the kerbside collection of recyclables as “a necessity”. Among the key findings of the ETRA Committee were:

  • that the strategy leaves “the door open to a big expansion of large-scale incineration of household waste”. “We believe that incineration will never play a major role in truly sustainable waste management,” MPs commented;
  • that there should be a tax on incineration, the landfill tax should be increased to £25 a tonne, and the “charade” of the landfill tax credit scheme should be abandoned. Revenue from landfill and incineration taxes should fund waste minimisation, reuse and recycling;
  • The Government “lacks depth and ambition” for improving resource use. It must set a target to reduce the volume of waste, and break the link with economic growth;
  • the 30% and 33% recycling targets for 2010 and 2015 are “depressingly unambitious”. Government must set higher recycling targets of 50% by 2010 and 60% by 2015 to show there is not a ceiling on recycling and composting potential.

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In response, the DETR took the unusual step of issuing a rebuttal statement, insisting that the ETRA Committee’s criticism that the Waste Strategy is too short term is “unfounded” and that it “sets out a clear vision and challenging targets for

managing waste and resources”. The DETR said that it was “disappointed that the Committee has failed to recognise these challenging, long term targets and the progress already made”.

On criticism of the landfill tax, DETR said that it will continue to rise and by 2004 will be double the initial level. Also, it drew attention to the Chancellor’s announcement in his Budget Statement (see related story)that the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme will be reformed to direct more resources towards sustainable waste management.

In addition, DETR said that it had already set statutory recycling targets for local authorities until 2005/6 and that as technology improves and the composition of the waste stream changes, it “will increase the level of targets where appropriate and underpin these with further statutory targets for councils.”

The government did agree, however, with the Committee’s view that waste minimisation is a central challenge and expressed disappointment that it

“proposed further targets but no practical measures to deliver them.”

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