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KERBSIDE RECYCLING ESSENTIAL - AND PLASTIC BAG TAX NOT RULED OUT, SAYS MEACHER

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By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley...
By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley

To meet the recycling targets set by government, all councils - 'or certainly most of them'- will have to adopt kerbside recycling, environment minister Michael Meacher told MPs.

Part of the prime minister's strategy unit study on waste was considering what mechanisms would best achieve increased household waste recycling.

He was replying to John Pugh, Liberal Democrat MP for Southport, who asked what role doorstep collection and taxation could play in increasing recycling. He said many councils were currently hard-pressed to find the resources to set up doorstep recycling schemes.

Dr Pugh said in his constituency, despite a co-operative public, the local authority was forced to run plastic recycling schemes only in areas that could draw on specific or additional grants, such as those for neighbourhood renewal. Such areas were not always the best ones for high-volume recycling.

Mr Meacher said he was surprised by the funding claim. In the spending review 2000, spending on the environmental protection and cultural service part of the revenue support grant by£1.1bn in the third year. In the spending review 2002, that was increased by a further£670m for the three years to 2005-06. Final decisions on additional funding would be made when the strategy unit reported.

In addition to that, said the minister, government had just made allocations of£140m under the local authority recycling waste minimisation fund. Of 196 bids, 112 were successful and£50m had been distributed.

Mark Lazarowicz, Labour MP for Edinburgh North and Leith, said dozens of MPs from both sides of the house supported his early-day motion calling for a tax on plastic disposable shopping bags, similar to the one introduced in the Irish Republic.

Mr Meacher said the UK government had been watching closely what happened in Ireland.

'I understand that there has been a 90% reduction in the use of plastic bags. In this country, the figures are quite daunting. Eight billion plastic bags are used every year which, on average, is about 135 for each person. Therefore, reducing that figure would be very worthwhile.

'A plastic bag tax is not the only way of dealing with the problem, but...the strategy unit has been to Ireland, talked to those involved and will certainly be considering this point in its report', added the minister.

Hansard 17 Oct 2002: Column 447-449

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