Examination of witnesses (Questions 384
TUESDAY 14 NOVEMBER 2000
FIELDING and MR
384. May I welcome you to the fourth session
of this Committee's inquiry into delivering sustainable waste
management. May I ask you to introduce yourselves for the record,
(Mr Fielding) My name is Ian Fielding. I work for
Hampshire County Council. I am a member of the Policy and Advisory
Committee for the National Association of Waste Disposal Officers.
(Mr Coulter) My name is Patrick Coulter. I am Head
of Waste Management for Oxfordshire County Council. I am a member
of the National Association of Waste Disposal Officers Strategy
385. Thank you very much. Do you want to say
anything by way of introduction or are you happy for us to go
straight into questions?
(Mr Fielding) We are happy for you to go straight
386. To what extent do you think the document
Waste Strategy 2000 has taken us towards the objective of sustainable
(Mr Fielding) First of all, we would generally welcome
the document as an attempt to deliver sustainable waste management.
As an organisation, perhaps we would question whether sustainable
waste management is the right direction to be proceeding in; whether
we should be trying instead to look at delivery of sustainable
resource management or sustainable consumption.
387. You have a problem with the word?
(Mr Fielding) The concept of sustainable waste management
implies, to my mind, an end of pipe approach. Waste is a function
of the consumption of resources. The problem we face is more to
do with consumption of resources rather than generation of waste.
There is an argument that suggests that the amount of weight produced
could, in fact, be greater rather than less; and the document
does strive towards trying to reduce or minimise the amount of
waste that we produce. The sustainable resource management approachultimately,
the amount of waste we handlecould, in fact, be more; provided
it was used and managed in a more sustainable way.
388. Do you think there is a danger of over-ordering
incineration capacity nationally?
(Mr Coulter) I think there are a number of drivers
to increase the amount of incineration and make provision for
incineration. For a start, even with all the recycling and composting
which this Strategy encourages, there is still a great deal of
residual waste left to be dealt with. Of the options for dealing
with that residual waste at the moment and in the future, the
only secure option is incineration. It is the only proven technology
apart from composting and recycling. So if, as managers, we have
to make secure plans for the service, to ensure the bins are emptied
in the future, we do have to go for secure proven technologies.
However, because those technologies have long lead times, then
it is possible that we will be adopting the worse case scenarios
at the moment because we do not have alternatives. The drivers
against over-provision are the fact that there is no political
support, as far as I can see at the moment, for further incineration.
None of the major parties seem to be backing it. Certainly the
environmental groups and even the public are very anxious about
it, so in a sense that will provide a check on over-provision
389. How does what you say fit in with your
colleague's statement about resource sufficiency?
(Mr Coulter) It is a dilemma we face because incineration
can be the Best Practical Environmental Option with energy recovery.
The difficulty we do face is operating in a political environment,
which we have no control over. Therefore, whilst we can make strategies
until the cows come home, the delivery of the strategies is difficult.
We have to deliver them in a political environment. I think that
is the problem we face.
390. You said that none of the political parties
support incineration but a number of experts have been before
us to say that Waste Strategy 2000, the logical outcome of this,
is something like 100 new incinerators.
(Mr Coulter) Yes. There is a dichotomy or a logical
break somewhere there because that may be the message of the Strategy.
However, it is certainly not what we hear from spokespersons,
from different parts of the political spectrum, so there does
seem to be a problem there. It does need to be resolved politically.
We do feel that there needs to be some form of strong political
leadership on this subject.
391. But what in your opinion, as experts, are
you suggesting as alternatives that could manage resource better?
(Mr Coulter) At this stage, if we are not able to
plan to increase the incineration capacity, because at the moment
we feel there is no other technology, we would like to see Government
investing in far more large-scale trials of alternative technologies.
At the moment, we do not have alternative methods that we can
rely on. That is a role for Government: to actively intervene
in that and conduct large-scale trials.
392. Large-scale trials in what?
(Mr Coulter) In other treatments such as gasification,
pyrolysis, small-scale incineration. The resistance to incineration
is partly due to the scale of the technology. As it decreases
in scale, and if it becomes more modular in its format, then it
may gain greater public support.
393. Have you done any work on how it might
be useful to go in this particular direction? Is that not something
which should be fed into the equation?
(Mr Coulter) I am sorry?
394. Have you thought in detail what might go
to incineration? That is something which could be fed into the
equation. What have you found?
(Mr Coulter) If growth continues at the present rate,
take my county of Oxfordshire alone, at the moment we produce
300,000 tonnes of household waste per annum. If growth continues
at the present 1, 2, 3 per cent rate, even if we achieve all the
targets for recycling and composting by 2010, which is the year
of the first Landfill Directive target, we will still have probably
almost as much waste as we have at the moment to deal with beyond
that. We will have something like 200,000 tonnes of waste to deal
with. So, in a sense, the recycling and composting is keeping
up with the growth but it is still leaving a great deal of waste
to be managed.
395. That is not what I asked. I asked about
the type of material fit for incineration. You did not tell me
that. You did not answer any of those points.
(Mr Coulter) I think I suggested that if we take out
the materials which are more suitable for recycling and composting,
which are the compostible materials and the paper and cardboard
and so on, we are left with the residue which is made up of quite
a lot of the waste of paper and cardboard but in a rather contaminated
form, and this is hard to recover and hard to recycle. This is
part of the fraction which is still quite combustible, which we
would say was residual waste but which could be incinerated.
396. Do you not think that one of the problems
of incineration is to do with the residue of heavy metals and
(Mr Fielding) First of all, I would like to clarify
that The National Association does not support nor discourage
incineration. Incineration, in our view, is inevitable at this
stage, given the lack of credible alternatives. The amount of
waste that will need to go to incineration will be a function
of how successful we are in meeting our recycling objectives and
the amount of waste that will be in the waste stream. Given the
issues that have been raised about growth, it is inevitable that
we will need to process some material in some way. Recycling will
not deliver probably more than about 40 to 50 per cent of waste
avoidance. We still have to deal with at least about 50 per cent
of the waste we currently deal with, and 50 per cent of the waste
we will have to deal with in future years. The problem is knowing
how much we will have to deal with in future years. The planning
horizon to deliver, whether it is incineration or anything else
at this stage, is upward of ten years. We have no credible basis
on which to make projections in ten years' time as to how much
waste we will have to deal with. Your original question about
over-ordering incineration capacity is a danger, although I do
not necessarily think that it is something which will happen.
What is more likely to happen at this stage is that with the lack
of knowledge of where we are going in waste growth; with the lack
of knowledge and lack of political leadership which we have already
referred to; we are more likely to see a stagnation: people not
doing anything until some of these unknowns are clearer.
397. You mentioned anaerobic digestion, incineration,
gasification. Surely all of these things depend on separation
of materials you have to get rid of?
(Mr Fielding) To some degree, yes.
398. Is it to a large degree or a small degree?
(Mr Fielding) There are technologies that can deal
with segregation to a lesser degree. They are inherently more
problematic in the fact that you are then dealing with a more
uncontrollable waste stream. Where you are segregating, clearly
you have a higher degree of control over the material.
399. Who should be responsible for that waste
collection or waste disposal?
(Mr Fielding) As things are currently drafted in existing
legislation, collection is obviously a responsibility of the collection
authority. It is a matter for local determination how waste will
be segregated: whether it is at the point of collection or thereafter;
how that will be shared between the relevant authorities. How
you should do it is a matter for local determination.