Examination of witnesses (Questions 420
TUESDAY 10 FEBRUARY 1998
and MR JOHN
420. So what do you think that you prefer
(Mr Bateman) I would suggest that we are not in
the bargaining position at the moment, but clearly there is some
421. The same size of mill?
(Mr Bateman) Yes, the same size.
422. In your evidence you have expressed
serious concern about the producer responsibility packaging regulations
and you suggest that people who do not produce a certain kind
of waste stream are able to fulfil their obligations by effectively
pinching paper from the stream. Would you favour some sort of
regulation whereby producers had to recover the waste that they
are producing as opposed to a more general scheme?
(Mr Goodall) Mr Chairman, I think that the key
issue here is that we as an industry believe that the under-achieving
material streams need to do more and our success and ease of access
to packaging recovery notes through the reprocessor should not
be used to subsidise the under-achieving streams. We heard the
retail sector earlier indicate concern over the guidance notes
and we share that concern, but we have come at it from a different
position. Our view is that we are determined to make the legislation
successful and to work with Government to achieve the targets.
As we outlined earlier, the paper industry is quite close to those
targets already, and yet we know that some five million tonnes
of paper currently finds its way into landfill sites. Where we
have difficulty with the guidance is that the obligations of certain
groups can be offset using paper as a means of securing recovery
notes. Our view would be that providing that the packaging obligations
of those concerns were fulfilled through the packaging route and
reprocessors and the issue of packaging recovery notes, then they
would have to look to recover their obligations in the other material
streams in a different way. The difficulty that we face is that
the smaller members of the packaging chain, who themselves have
some obligations, because of this and other perhaps mis-use of
the guidance, could actually find themselves having to go out
into the open market to buy packaging recovery notes which will
be traded in a secondary market through that earlier example at
an inflated cost to meet their own packaging obligations. We think
that that is unfair on the infrastructure within the packaging
sector where there is a determination that all participantslocal
authorities, waste management companies, independent waste merchants,
integrated waste merchantswill together succeed in meeting
423. What I find astonishing is this idea
of marketing, buying and selling packaging recovery notes. Is
there a sort of exchange or is it done by people saying, "I've
got some notes for sale"?
How is it done?
(Mr Goodall) There is a danger, I think, that
you can develop a secondary market in packaging recovery notes.
It is fairly early in the legislation to establish stability.
There is clearly a determination to make the legislation work
and we are highlighting, we believe, certain areas where there
is a need for that legislation to be addressed.
424. Could you not simply make the packaging
recovery note non-transferable?
(Mr Bateman) You probably could.
425. Would that work?
(Mr Bateman) It would work, but I think, just
to move it on, that you have to see where the waste resides in
the stream. For example, you heard from the retailers a little
earlier this morning. In outline if you look at the large retailers
as a whole, they will actually have at their back door a million
tonnes of packaging waste. Nine hundred thousand tonnes of that
is paper, 100,000 tonnes of that is plastic. However, if you then
analyse their obligations, they actually have an obligation for
around half a million tonnes and therefore they have half a million
tonnes of surplus packaging so that, if the guidance and operation
of the packaging recovery note is put into being as the Office
of Fair Trading and the Department of the Environment, Transport
and the Regions want, then essentially those retailers have the
equivalent value of 500,000 tonnes of packaging recovery notes.
You heard earlier this morning how they certainly are motivated
by a number of factors. You must accept that they will want to
sell those surplus packaging recovery notes where they can.
426. What do you perceive to be the roles
and responsibilities of Government and the Environment Agency
in relation to waste management? You have commented about the
packaging recovery note, so perhaps you would not want to repeat
that at the moment, because we have made some note of that?
(Mr Bateman) Well, clearly Government has to set
the policy framework and it has done that in so far as it has
decided, for example, that we will have a landfill tax. We support
the landfill tax because it actually drives better stewardship
in the conduct and use of waste.
427. Would you be happy to see it doubled?
(Mr Bateman) We would be happy to see it rise
progressively over time. Ultimately it will double because if
you look at landfill prices in the United Kingdom compared with
those in Germany, they are merely a fraction of what they are
428. What about the Environment Agency?
(Mr Bateman) The agenciesand, of course,
there are two agencies, the Scottish Environmental Protection
Agency as wellhave a vital role to play and they must interface
with government policy and industry, but in I think a pragmatic
and sensible way. We have had some unfortunate experiences thus
far with the interpretation of the packaging regulations. We would
much rather see a European interpretation of packaging, for example,
rather than we seem to be generating a peculiar UK definition
of packaging. Elements like that clearly have to be addressed.
429. Have you found it possible to discuss
your concerns with the Environment Agency?
(Mr Bateman) We find it quite easy to discuss
it with them and we have an ongoing dialogue with the Environment
Agency and with the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency.
It is necessary to do that. What we are trying to do is to draw
them both together so that they both agree and we are obviously
deeply in discussion with them over certain aspects of their policy.
They have policy papers in respect of, for example, if companies
wanted to incinerate packaging waste and our own companies are
regulated particularly under Integrated Pollution Control and
in that respect totally governed on the emissions that our plant
can make. We can recover some energy from our packaging by incinerating
that packaging in our own plants. Now, the Environment Agency
have said that we must now be covered by the Municipal Waste Incineration
Directive. We have actually suggested that that is inappropriate
and that is part of the on going discussions that we are having,
particularly since some of the waste that we are proposing to
burn has been nowhere near the municipal waste stream.
430. If I can come in just on that point,
Mr Chairman, you are saying that the attitude expressed by the
Environment Agency is more of an enforcer rather than as an encourager?
(Mr Bateman) I think that is over-etching it,
but it is more in that direction.
431. Would you like to see the landfill
tax itself recycled?
(Mr Bateman) Indeed. We would like to see the
landfill tax revenues, which as you know currently go into certain
ENTRUST projects and reduced national insurance and health subscriptions,
we would like to see a further step where those revenues arising
from this tax which, as we say, is useful, progressively to come
into assisting the recycling infrastructure, and by that I do
not mean handouts to industry, I mean assisting local government
in its obvious intentions in the field of recyling and local government,
as we all know, suffers from under-funding. So, if you like, positive
money coming from landfill tax revenues and going back into the
recycling infrastructure we think would be a proper use of it.
We certainly would not like to think that those monies from landfill
tax revenue were simply going into the Treasury coffers to go
on whatever seemed popular at the time. It is a landfill tax,
432. If we got newspaper recovery up to
60 per cent you would not have the capacity to deal with it, would
(Mr McKendrick) We would not have the manufacturing
capacity at this moment, Mr Chairman.
433. So if you got up to 50 per cent would
that be possible or are we stuck at 40 per cent because of your
(Mr McKendrick) I think that at the present one
of the three mills in the United Kingdom is actually increasing
its recycled content.
(Mr Bateman) Mr Chairman, if I may just pick up
and elaborate those numbers, let us be clear what the United Kingdom
performance is. The average recycled content of newsprint that
comes out of UK paper mills is 92 per cent in round numbers. That
is a world leading performance. In order now to lift the overall
average of recycled content in newsprint we need to do two things.
We need either to build more newsprint capacity in the United
Kingdom, that is, newsprint manufacturing capacity, or to make
sure that the newsprint that is coming in from abroad has a higher
recycled content. The latter though will give us an on-going landfill
problem because, as we have heard before, when you recycle, automatically
material comes out into the waste stream, so if we take more and
more recycled newsprint from abroad it will increase our landfill
requirements or our incineration requirements. The best approach
is to build a new newsprint mill in the United Kingdom.
434. It is hardly sustainable to take waste
paper from the United Kingdom to Canada to incorporate it into
(Mr Bateman) I agree, Mr Chairman, and particularly
if it goes to Canada to be incorporated into their newsprint and
then they sell it back to us.
435. On that
note, may I thank you very much for your evidence today.
(Mr Bateman) Thank you, Mr Chairman.
Examination of witnesses
WALKER, Secretary, Composting
Association, and MR DAVID
MIDDLEMASS, Community Composting
Network, were examined.
WALKER and MR
436. May I welcome you to the Committee
and thank you for the evidence that you have submitted. First
of all, would you introduce yourselves for the record?
(Mr Walker) Thank you, Mr Chairman. I am Michael
Walker and I am secretary of the Composting Association for the
(Mr Middlemass) I am David Middlemass and I am
the co-ordinator of the Community Composting Network.
Chairman: Thank you
very much. Mr Olner?
437. Thank you, Mr Chairman. I will ask
you the same question that I asked previous witnesses, that is,
how would you as an organisation define "sustainable"
in a waste management context?
(Mr Middlemass) I think that sustainability has
numerous elements to it and reference to Agenda 21 will show that
it is about environment on one side and about people on another
side but also about being sustainable from an economic point of
view as well. That is something in terms of which community composting
can embrace all aspects of that. It involves people at a local
level. Enterprises can be based on the sale of community compost
and also you are recycling organic waste.
438. Would you say that 50 per cent of ordinary
people recognise what sustainable is?
(Mr Middlemass) It is probably not as high as
it could be. One of the reasons for that perhaps is that people
do not know very easily how to get involved in sustainability.
How do you express that idea? It is something that we try to promote,
that community composting and home composting is a very simple
way for people to behave in a sustainable way.
439. People of our age and your age and
the last generation, we should be encouraging youngsters?
(Mr Middlemass) Absolutely, Mr Chairman, and it
is an interesting point. Older people will have composted anyway
and it is something that younger people are enthusiastic about
perhaps for slightly different reasons.