UK must recycle more, say MEPs

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A big increase in the amount of packaging waste that must be recycled was agreed by MEPs yesterday in a move that promises to alter the way many British households dispose of rubbish.</p>The European Parliament approved a packaging directive that will oblige countries to recycle 55 per cent of glass, paper, cardboard, metals and plastics by 31 December 2008.</p>Already the Government manages to recycle about 45 per cent waste but it puts the onus on businesses to foot the bill and to maximise environmentally friendly disposal of waste.</p>David Bowe, the Labour environment spokesman in the European Parliament, said: "This increase represents millions of tons of rubbish, which will have to be found from domestic households. This will mean doorstep recycling in every local authority, if not every household, in the country."</p>Yesterday's vote was good news for the Government because it fought off efforts by MEPs to force countries to meet their recycling targets in 2006, which ministers believe is impractical. Although this issue could be reopened in talks between the European Parliament, the European Commission and national governments, MEPs said they thought it would be avoided.</p>The cost of the requirement for Britain is expected to be £1.1bn over five years. The Government says a 2007 deadline would have added £143m to that. Officials say vehicles need to be bought, kerbside collection or bottle banks put in place and reprocessing centres established. In Britain, industry bears the brunt of recycling, through a complex system under which it buys credits from firms that recycle waste.</p>Yesterday's vote is part of the push to update the 1994 directive on packaging and packaging waste and to help shift the responsibility for pollution on to the producer. In Germany and the Netherlands, recycling is well established, but it lags in the UK and Spain. The European Parliament also adopted an amendment, by the Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies, making clear that materials accompanying products through their life would not be included, specifically excluding flowerpots from recycling. </p>
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