Examination of witnesses (Questions 500
TUESDAY 14 NOVEMBER 2000
LEA and MR
500. At some point you have to treat that, surely,
to get rid of some of the nasties that are likely to be in it?
(Mr Lea) It is important for the natural breakdown
in normal soil, you need the reactions between soils and inerts
anyway, because this material contains 30 per cent paper, the
worms enjoy the fibres within that paper and are able to turn
that material back into a decent compost. There are also other
activities taking place in the soil that are quite natural operations
within a soil structure.
501. It only smells for about three or four
(Mr Lea) The odours are only occasionally, depending
on how you handle this material. It is a quality controlled operation.
502. Mr Gilbert, could you explain the relationship
between the North-West Regional Advisory Body and the North-West
(Mr Gilbert) The Regional Technical Advisory Body
actually evolved from an officer Waste Working Group, which certain
members of the previous North-West Region Association set in 1993.
Strictly the role of RTAB is to advise the North-West Regional
Assembly as the regional planning body and give it technical guidance
on waste management issues within its region. That is its very
basic function. It is actually born out of PPG10, where it advises
all regional planning bodies, in this case the NWRA. That is the
503. Does that mean that decisions on regional
guidance are taken by the North-West Assembly rather than by the
(Mr Gilbert) That is correct. The Regional Technical
Advisory Body has no independent status. It reports technical
information to the Regional Planning Body and the Regional Planning
Body itself does not have that statutory power to actually implement
the recommendations of the RTAB. It is through guidance only that
we are trying to get our technical messages through.
504. Have you consulted on the formulation of
the North-West Waste Strategy?
(Mr Gilbert) The formulation of the regional strategy
is some way down the line yet. We are probably looking at next
summer to consult the public on the draft regional strategy. At
the moment what the RTAB is doing is compiling a technical report
and we hope to consult the public on that in about February. That
technical report is a precursor to the full strategy. The technical
report is looking at baseline data and making certain calculations
and assumptions about growth and waste with the options that we
need take to ensure sustainability in waste management within
the North-West, having regard to the National Waste Strategy and
the Landfill Directive.
505. What form will consultation take?
(Mr Gilbert) There is not one. The first part of consultation
with the RTABs technical report will be a broad consultation within
the North-West, not dissimilar to the list that was used for the
draft regional planning guidancethat has just concluded
the process of consultation within the regionwe will use
that mechanism. If required to do so we will go around and talk
to organisations about the work of the RTAB. Having done the technical
report we will analyse the feedback from the consultation to mould
the Regional Waste Strategy.
506. Would you say that it is fair comment that
the Waste Strategy is leaning towards incineration?
(Mr Gilbert) Leading towards incineration? That implies
only incineration. There are a number of options, it is a mix
and match. No individual option is likely to comply with either
the recycling targets of the National Waste Strategy or the new
Landfill Directive targets to divert waste. We are going to have
some incineration, there is no doubt about that. There will also
be requirements for other management processes, along with recycling
507. Would you say that proper effort is being
made to look at alternatives to incineration?
(Mr Gilbert) Yes, indeed. What we are looking at at
the moment is the best practical environmental options for the
waste streams in the North-West. That will take account of all
methodologies and current waste management practices. It is a
balance between costs, involving transportation, and a balance
for environmental protection. If you look at the waste hierarchy,
we certainly need to start at the top and encourage minimisation.
Our strategy will be a balance between seeking minimisation, reuse
and recycling, composting and digesting and energy from waste.
The bottom of the hierarchy is landfill. We have to use the waste
508. You have described the process of policy
formation developing from an officer group being advisory to the
regional assembly, which has elected representatives, is that
pattern repeated in other regions? Do you know anything about
(Mr Gilbert) I am here today to represent the North-West
RTAB. The other eight regions in England do have similar structures.
I know that we are at varying stages in the setting up of our
technical advisory bodies. I cannot answer you precisely as to
reporting mechanisms. I know there are regional chambers. One
of the difficulties for the RTAB is that we are operating in a
vacuum, we do not know the situation nationally. Hopefully that
is going to be partly addressed in the setting up of a new national
forum for RTABs. We have had contact from the Department of Environment,
Transport and the Regions. We are hoping to have the first meeting
of the new forum in January next year, and this will help us to
exchange information about experiences, best practices and, indeed,
the structures that are relevant to delivering technical advice
in those regions.
509. Would you say that the Regional Technical
Advisory Body is sufficiently related to the wider region in terms
of elected representatives in the assembly and social partners
rather than being an officer group working in isolation?
(Mr Gilbert) The RTAB has only just been set up. We
are finding our feet, in terms of our networking and relationships
within the North-West, with the myriad of organisations that have
waste management interests, the collection authorities, the waste
disposal authorities, the local waste planning authorities, the
industry and the interest groups. We have precise reporting mechanisms.
The RTABs reports to the key priority group of the regional assembly,
that is a defined path for putting information reports into the
domain of the assembly. Of course there are channels to feed information
back down and requests for the RTAB team to carry out research.
510. You just heard Greater Manchester say that
they do not need any more incinerators, that is almost a third
of the North-West. Do you fully approve of the way that they are
coming up with an alternative to incinerations, soil improvement,
shaping and extracting a great deal out of their waste?
(Mr Gilbert) I think their approach is to treat waste
through the best practical environmental option, that is what
they are doing. They are looking at the waste stream that has
been generated sub-regionally, they are looking at the proximity
principle and we are looking at the sub-regional proximity, which
I find extremely encouraging.
511. You seem to be avoiding this question of
the soil improvement, would you like to see the whole of the North-West
covered with the soil improvement?
(Mr Gilbert) I do not know enough about the process
technically, I know it is one of the options. If the product can
be reused, that it more favourable than being land-fill. It would
certainly be something that we would want to encourage, new technologies
and different technologies.
512. Why do you not know much about the process
if are you part of the technical advisory group?
(Mr Gilbert) I have to say that the waste management
field is extremely complex in terms of
513. That is why you are there.
(Mr Gilbert) If I can be clear about my role as Chairman
of a body, which ostensibly is to look at giving guidance on planning
for the locations of facilities, we are not wholly about
514. You are not very well informed about what
they put there but you know where they ought to go.
(Mr Gilbert) I think it is too early in the development
of Greater Manchester's strategy to say that it is going to be
the be-all and end-all of their management of waste. There are
too many other options for Greater Manchester to get involved
515. What efforts are you making to inform the
public and educate the public about the need to minimise, re-use
and recycle compost?
(Mr Lea) Obviously we welcome the National Waste Awareness
Campaign. However, we as an individual company are promoting our
sustainable waste management practices by going out into the community,
liaison meetings, the creation of visitor centres. We have just
recently completed a major visitor centre in the Bolton area,
which is all about environmental education and the link that education
will have with waste management solutions.
516. Is that aimed at both the public and business?
(Mr Lea) It is across the board really, various businesses
have links to waste management and it is very important to inform
the business sector, academic organisations, school children,
the householders and generally the community at large.
517. Out of your client-base, so to speak, how
many do you reckon have been to your visitor centres?
(Mr Lea) The visitor centres are fairly new. There
is this major one, which we have just completed. There has been
an awful lot of interest from various bodies to use that centre,
for business all of the way down to school children and local
schools coming to visit, to see our process primarily and to understand
the environmental problems that we have for the future.
518. You do not know precisely how many, it
is early days. Do you have a target?
(Mr Lea) The visitor centre is obviously going to
increase the demand or, should I say, access for these various
different bodies. However, we have a visit virtually every week
at any one of our plants or facilities from either the community,
business sector or education.
519. Are you worried at all that the school
awareness initiatives are being sponsored by industry bodies?
Do you think there is bias if McDonalds are talking about waste
(Mr Lea) We are very conscious of the bias. That is
why our visitor centres show all our solutions and the opportunity
that we have for developing a strategy which will achieve the
targets well in advance of 2005. We have tried to isolate the
educational part of those centres to be purely financed and supported
by the local community.
520. Thank you.
Chairman: On that note, can I thank you both
very much for your evidence.