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

Examination of witnesses (Questions 440 - 451)



  440. But surely, if it is going to be a major input from people, you want to get across the message that there is a real problem here year-on-year if industry does not reduce its amount of waste. I will give you an instance. I bought a belt for a vacuum cleaner, a simple bit of rubber. It was in cellophane. Then it was in a box. It was half the size of A4. Not only was there all that packaging, but there were two in there and I only wanted one. What dialogue have you with industry on this sort of waste?
  (Mr Coulter) We talk to local supermarkets. We work with them as far as we can.

  441. That is where I bought mine, from the local supermarket. They did not make it.
  (Mr Coulter) No, it is further back up the pipeline.
  (Mr Fielding) We do have links as professionals with industry, through other organisations. Our Association is one of mainly sharing best practice and dialogue and discussion and all the sorts of things you have heard today. The problem you have outlined is one of the fundamental problems again with the proposed Strategy. It is the lack of integration of producer responsibility, and the role of producer responsibility to delivery of sustainable waste management and sustainable resource consumption. The Strategy focuses on us as household waste managers and not dealing with that problem.

  442. You are shown to be rather scathing about the documents on encouraging householders to increase the amount of recycling undertaken. Why?
  (Mr Fielding) We felt that they were a little weak. Possibly the perception was that they may have been watered down at the last minute, and failed to give any serious consideration to the mechanisms to make significant improvements in the amount of recycling carried out by householders. A competition, a reward system, is unlikely to make significant changes in consumer habits.

  443. What will?
  (Mr Fielding) The sorts of issues we have discussed is to do with bringing a direct incentive to the householder in terms of the financial incentive.

  444. You mean charging them to take away the stuff?
  (Mr Coulter) That is part of it.

  445. So you weigh the wheelie bin when it is collected from the household?
  (Mr Coulter) That could be done, yes.

  446. I know it could be done. What I am asking you is this: what are you saying as an organisation? Is that the way to encourage householders to recycle?
  (Mr Coulter) What we said was one element in this process. It will go partly to doing that. There is evidence from other countries like Canada where it does encourage this. We realise the political problems with doing that.


  447. You have just told us that you think there has been a deflection of household building waste, if you like, to civic amenity tips. Would you not just encourage people either to take it into a civic amenity tip rather than put it in their wheelie bin, or simply to fly-tip it and get away with it?
  (Mr Coulter) As my colleague suggested, we could also charge civic amenity sites. The issue of fly-tipping is a matter of enforcement. To some extent we find that most people are willing to deal responsibly with their waste but it does not take many to create fly-tipping.

  448. In effect, you are talking about green tax to change people's habits. Are you sure that it would not simply hurt people who were hard-up and on low incomes, and make very little difference to people who were relatively affluent and who would not mind a charge of, perhaps, 5 or £6 a week for removing their waste?
  (Mr Fielding) That is an important point for consideration. That is the problem. I have to say that the jury is out in a lot of respects as to direct charging for collection from households. For as many people who would argue for it, there are as many people who would argue against it, for mainly those reasons. Even if we doubled or trebled the cost, it would still be cheap. Those issues raised are quite valid. Some people would be able to afford them and other people would not. That is one of the reasons why we raised the proposal for a sustainability levy, which could address those issues at point of purchase and not point of disposal. The logical conclusion outlined in our evidence about this, as we are saying, is that the responsibility for sustainable resource consumption should not put that strain. The conclusion, as waste managers, is that we should almost be encouraged to get more waste into our system and not less. We should take a responsible attitude and encourage waste in, so that we can deal with it properly. The current system would prevent that because of the incentive targets, incentive funding. However, that is the logical conclusion. You follow the arguments we are making? There is some sense in that.

  449. So what you are saying? You want charges for domestic waste removal or the approach you have just outlined?
  (Mr Fielding) The Association does not have a view on direct charging at point of collection. We do have a view that direct or indirect fiscal measures need to be part of a package, which will incentivise householders on choices at point of purchase.

  Mrs Dunwoody: That is a cop-out, with the greatest of respect.


  450. I know, Mr Coulter, it is quite useful, but we do need to get it on the record, so I have to interrupt you: would you like to put it into your own words, would you describe it as a cop-out?
  (Mr Coulter) What you are hearing is that the Association, because we are a group of professionals and do not regulate each other, so we have different views on this, I suppose.

Mrs Dunwoody

  451. Just like individual householders, you all have different views.
  (Mr Coulter) It would have to be an equitable system, there is no doubt about that. We have water metering and things like that. Waste metering may come.

  Chairman: On that note, may I say thank you very much for your evidence.

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