Examination of witnesses (Questions 420
TUESDAY 14 NOVEMBER 2000
FIELDING and MR
420. So has any authority actually measured,
say, one hundred houses and the amount of rubbish which was produced
ten years ago, and what has happened in each year since then?
(Mr Fielding) No.
Chairman: So, basically, they have not got the
421. May I ask whether the survey will be done
at exactly the same time as you did it last time. Obviously it
is very seasonal as to what is in the refuse bin.
(Mr Fielding) Absolutely. It is very seasonal. It
is also affected by other things. Yes, we are aware of that limitation.
One of the problems we face is funding that kind of research in
future. The project we undertook last year was funded through
the Landfill Tax credit system. If we want to repeat that exercise
we are subject to the same bidding process.
422. What is the potential for minimising waste?
(Mr Fielding) The potential for minimising waste,
in terms of a figure, I would not like to put a handle on it.
We need to define what we mean by minimising waste. As I said,
at the beginning, waste minimisationif we mean by that
reducing the amount of waste that waste disposal and waste collection
authorities have to deal withmight not necessarily be sustainable
waste or sustainable resource management. What is needed is focusing
up-stream at the consumption of resources in production and product
design, that can then cascade through the system.
423. What about the skill of minimisation so
(Mr Fielding) The skill is in the product and design
industry. Designing a sustainable product, in sustainable manufacturing,
and looking much further up-stream at how you minimise the amount
of resources within the products that are cascaded down. Ensuring
that those products, which end up in the waste stream, can be
dealt with in a more sustainable way. Waste minimisation is something
which is very easy to talk about but very difficult to define.
424. Yet the whole thrust of your evidence is
that you put great importance on that. At the beginning of your
evidence today you said that you did not accept the position of
sustainable waste management as it was presented. You thought
we should look into the waste management scheme. If you regard
that as so important, surely you must have some idea of what you
mean: what could be done and what we should be doing to further
(Mr Coulter) I think it is further in the background.
It is really the manufacturing industry. There is something like
ten times as much resource going into the production of a product
as goes into the consumption and the end part of the product's
life. That is what we feel the main thrust of waste reduction
should be. That leaves us, as managers, with the need to deal
effectively, with what remains as the Strategy says. The Strategy
says that there are two elements. Firstly, to reduce the waste
we produce; and, secondly, then to make the best and most effective
use of that waste which is produced. We see the first element
as being more in the sphere of the manufacturing industry, and
the second element comes to us when we are actually managing the
waste stream itself.
425. Who should be responsible for minimising
(Mr Coulter) I would have thought, in practical terms,
that it should be Government and manufacturing industry together
who would have that primary responsibility. We can only do so
much. In a sense, we should not promise more than we can deliver
on this. We can do some education. There is the control of the
bin size which does, to some extent, affect what people produce
in a limited way, as Ian suggested. However, we do not have much
we can deliver there. What we can deliver is managing that waste
effectively but it is further up the pipeline where the real changes
need to be made.
426. In your evidence you talk about a "sustainability
levy". Who would make that levy? How would you get the revenues?
(Mr Fielding) I recognise all sorts of problems with
implementation but it is an example which we felt was appropriate
to make in terms of how to get consumers to make choices that
will lead to waste minimisation or to better use of resources.
The problem, at the moment, is that to incentivise a consumer
is extremely difficult. They are faced with a lot of choices.
If you walk round a supermarket the choices are between maybe
bad sustainability products, better ones, and good ones. There
are also a whole host of price variations associated with that.
The suggestion was that a sustainability levy could go some way
to addressing those price balances and bring each individual consumer
choice down to a very, very limited number of options. To make
choices now, you can make choices on high sustainable grounds
but it is very, very difficult. You need to know a lot about the
product; its manufacture. You need to rely on information you
are given at the point of sale. You are not always confident that
you are making the right choice anyway.
427. No-one wants an incinerator, waste recycling
plant, tip, at the bottom of their garden. How can the planning
process change to enable these decisions to be taken more swiftly,
or should it change to enable the decision to be taken more swiftly?
(Mr Coulter) We live in a democracy based on consensus,
so even stream-lining planning permission, if there is not a consensus
in the population it is not going to be effective because it is
not part of that consensus process. What practically can be done
is that if there are appeals, they can be dealt with speedily
by the Civil Service or the Minister and decisions taken. The
appeals themselves will build up a sense of how the Government
sees the decision. If the Government does want to support, for
example, incineration, it can support it by supporting the appeals
which would come to it. You can have a mechanism but it will still
need a public consensus for what you are doing.
(Mr Fielding) Decisions need to be fitted into a framework.
What would be useful would be to establish that framework at national
level. Have guidance perhaps on the production of statutory land
use plans; maybe to make them, for instance, site specific. There
is no requirement to do that, at the moment. This means that an
application for an incinerator, if it is not based on a specific
site, land use planning is complicated. There is an argument for
greater leadership in terms of the technologies to be used. For
instance, to know that the technology being promoted fits into
a national framework would be very useful. Government could identify
a notional minimum level of capacity of certain technologies that
need not go beyond reasonable grounds, but could be 40 per cent
of the residual waste after recycling targets have been met. That
would then send a very clear message to say that there is support
for that kind of technology, which would help speed up the planning
428. Presumably, Mr Coulter, it would be preferable
to have the guidance now as opposed to relying on a series of
appeals to establish where the Government is going?
(Mr Coulter) Yes, it would. Inevitably there will
be appeals, and inevitably they will have to be determined. It
does take quite a while to take them through the process. There
is also the issue of scale. I come back to that. It may be that
development of smaller scale decentralised technologies would
be more acceptable. This is because we do have the boundary issue,
which is that people may be willing to accept dealing with their
own local waste, they may accept facilities specific to that,
but they may be reluctant to have larger facilities to take waste
from other places because it is not their waste. So the technology
may help to speed up the planning process.
429. In your evidence you have said that one
of the solutions might be for the decisions on incinerators to
be taken at a regional level to remove the potential for local
sensitivities: to override issues of the common good. That sounds
as though local communities are going to have no say in what happens
in their own backyard.
(Mr Fielding) That certainly would not be the impression
which we would wish to give. It is an option or an alternative
that is proposed. The overriding constraint must be for local
determination and the involvement of the community in establishing
its own solutions to the problem. Regional approach may be appropriate
for certain issues and not for others. There is perhaps a long
way to go to determine that.
430. Do you think there is any mileage in trying
a shadow plan for the incineration facility? In other words, put
in place everything that is necessary should that incineration
plant be needed, so that it can happen quickly?
(Mr Fielding) There would seem to be advantages in
that process but on reflectionthis is something we have
debated internallyit does present its own unique set of
problems. The overriding difficulty I would grapple with is how
that would receive or not receive public support. The public needs
certainty. They need to know where they are going; what is going
to be delivered. A shadow type plan, for instance, for an incinerator
that might be needed in certain criteria, might be perceived publicly
as an easy option out.
431. It would be shadow blight, would it not?
(Mr Fielding) It could be.
432. So you do not see shadow plans as being
a sensible route to go down?
(Mr Fielding) Depending on the detail it would need
a lot of thinking about. Personally, just from a very preliminary
discussion we had earlier in preparation for this, our view at
this stageit is not more than that because it has not been
debated within the organisationI would not necessarily
433. How effective is the WISARD tool in establishing
what is the Best Practical Environmental Option?
(Mr Coulter) We welcome this because it is a consistent
methodology, so at least we are talking about the same methodology
right across the country for the Strategy delivery. Clearly it
can only go so far. It is very often the assumptions underlying
that, where you draw the boundaries of the system. There will
always be debate about that. At least it represents a single consistent
methodology so we welcome that. We would like to see it used.
434. A sort of black box into which the decisions
go and it spits the answer out. If you do not understandas
most of the public will notthe sensitivity analysis of
all the factors involved, it is going to be completely impenetrable
to the public, is it not?
(Mr Coulter) It could be. We have used the system.
It is relatively transparent actually, but you are quite right,
it will need to be interpreted. It will need experts input. It
will not get away from the need to talk to the public about the
political issues really. It is not going to solve that. It is
just a tool which will help. At least we will not be faced with
half a dozen different methodologies, with people trying to assess
the different options.
435. You would strongly recommend that it should
not be relied upon as producing the answer in any shape or form?
It is merely one of the guides.
(Mr Coulter) It is just one of the guides. I honestly
do not think that the professionals see it as more than that actually.
Mr Brake: Thank you.
436. Do you think there should be a standard
approach to charging for garden waste collection and deliveries
to civic amenity sites?
(Mr Fielding) I think there should bewhether
it is a national or a local standard, I do not knowbut
there should be some standardisation in terms of green waste management
and integration of the way it is dealt with. One of the dangers
we face from the recent recycling and composting targets is an
increased divisiveness in their nature. That collection authorities
are likely to lean towards the collection of green waste in order
to meet their targets, without having regard to the integration
of that within the rest of the waste management policy.
437. Should the charge remain?
(Mr Fielding) They may charge. Some charge, some do
not. Some have different collection policies as to whether that
is acceptable in the residual container. There is then the whole
issue about centralisation through CA sites. The fact that we
are not, as disposal authorities, allowed to make any charge,
despite there being a high collection type cost. The collection
authorities are able to charge. That needs addressing.
438. Is there not a problem with green waste
collections in that what they actually do is to take waste that
people were previously composting at home, and they put it into
the waste stream with all the transport problems that are associated
(Mr Coulter) Yes, absolutely.
(Mr Fielding) There is evidence of that.
439. Does your Association talk to industry
and commerce about their waste generation?
(Mr Fielding) We have some links. We do not have the
strong links we would like to have. This is partly because we
are a relatively new organisation but we are striving to increase
our links and that is one we want to increase.