Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witnesses (Questions 420 - 439)



  420.  So what do you think that you prefer overall?
  (Mr Bateman)  I would suggest that we are not in the bargaining position at the moment, but clearly there is some incentive required.

Christine Butler

  421.  The same size of mill?
  (Mr Bateman)  Yes, the same size.

Dr Whitehead

  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 participants—local authorities, waste management companies, independent waste merchants, integrated waste merchants—will together succeed in meeting their targets.

  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.

Christine Butler

  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 in Germany.

Christine Butler

  428.  What about the Environment Agency?
  (Mr Bateman)  The agencies—and, of course, there are two agencies, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency as well—have 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.

Mrs Ellman

  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.

Mr Olner

  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.

Dr Whitehead

  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, after all.


  432.  If we got newspaper recovery up to 60 per cent you would not have the capacity to deal with it, would you?
  (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 manufacturing capacity?
  (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 their newsprint?
  (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

MR MICHAEL WALKER, Secretary, Composting Association, and MR DAVID MIDDLEMASS, Community Composting Network, were examined.



  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 United Kingdom.
  (Mr Middlemass)  I am David Middlemass and I am the co-ordinator of the Community Composting Network.

Chairman:  Thank you very much. Mr Olner?

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.

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