Recycling strategy attacked as timid by MPs

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Environmental groups have criticised the Government's record on recycling after figures showed people were still overwhelmingly failing or unable to reuse their waste.

Environmental groups have criticised the Government's record on recycling after figures showed people were still overwhelmingly failing or unable to reuse their waste.

Britain remains near the bottom of the European recycling table despite news yesterday of a small increase in the proportion of household waste recycled. The figures were published as an all-party committee of MPs criticised the Government for being "too timid" in its waste management policy.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee said the Government department and the Environment Agency lacked the necessary money and expertise to make real progress. "Despite warm words from Defra ministers, the department does not seem to have a real sense of where it wants to go," the MPs said.

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

The Government's own waste strategy in 2000 set a level of 25 per cent for municipal waste recycling. Figures released yesterday showthat household recycling - which makes up the majority of municipal waste - had risen only from 11.2 per cent in 2000-01 to 12.4 per cent in the following year. The amount of waste has also increased.

EU figures last year showed Britain lagged way behind most other European nations on recycling. Austria heads the league with 64 per cent followed by Belgium on 52 per cent.

Friends of the Earth's Waste Campaigner Claire Wilton said: "The Government is failing to tackle the UK's appalling waste problem. The country's recycling record was already one of the worst in Europe. At the current rate of improvement, one per cent a year, it is set to stay there for many years. When will the Government take this issue seriously?"

The campaign group urged the Government to support Labour MP Joan Ruddock's Recycling Bill, which would lead to comprehensive doorstep recycling. However, the Environment Minister Michael Meacher welcomed the "real progress in the war on waste" yesterday, saying the amount of household waste recycled since 1996 had almost doubled.

He said: "In 2003, it was reasonable to say the level is likely to be between 13 per cent to 14 per cenbt. It will certainly be significantly be above 12.4%."

But the shadow environment secretary David Lidington said the Government's waste strategy was clearly failing. "These figures make dismal reading," he said.

The amount of packaging used on supermarket ready meals and other food products has grown enormously in recent years and is responsible for filling a large proportion of household rubbish bins. Fast food outlets and coffee shops are also a problem because of the litter they generate.

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