Examination of witnesses (Questions 560
TUESDAY 14 NOVEMBER 2000
EASTEAL and MR
560. You have been set a national target of
33 per cent, what have you planned for? Are you planning for 33
per cent target or have you already conceded that is not achievable
and go on for something lower or are you going for something higher?
(Mr Tuthill) We are in discussion with the districts,
as you have heard, and we have been since 1994 trying to find
an agreed way forward. We do see the need to accelerate that process
and bring matters to a conclusion in the next year or so in order
that whatever replaces the existing contractual arrangements stands
a chance of being there on the ground when the current arrangements
expire. It is necessary for the districts to implement kerb-side
separation, not only of dry recyclables but also of organics,
if we are to stand any chance of getting to these challenging
recycling levels that have been set for us by the Government.
As we outlined, the infrastructure at the kerb-side and the revenue
costs to run those schemes and, indeed, the capital costs of the
processing plants have to be found from somewhere. Unless that
investment comes forward I do not think that we are going to achieve
these high recycling levels.
561. Can I ask why your authorities have problems
finding those financial resources when the London Borough of Sutton
has already got that scheme up and running, it is rolling out
the programme at the moment?
(Mr Tuthill) I can only answer the question in this
way, as a waste disposal authority, Essex's budget for waste management
has gone from £7 million in 1993, when I first came on to
the scene, currently to £22 million. We see that it will
finish up in excess of £30 million and that has to be found
from an Essex County Council cake, which the politicians advise
in real terms is not getting any larger. We have made massive
investment. We have improved the civic amenity service. We are
doing much by way of education. We have the largest home composting
scheme in the country, where we issue subsidised composters. We
have made moves but more needs to be done.
562. Can I ask the LGA, you just heard the problems
that there are in Essex in terms of meeting targets and the problems
with resourcing, this is a general issue across all local authorities
in the country. Yes or no?
(Mr Toombs) It varies from authority to authority.
You have pointed out the high levels of the London Borough of
Sutton, equally there are many other good examples in the best
value performance indicators in the appendix (to the recent DETR
consultation document in Best Value Performance Indicators for
2001/02. The situation does vary, as you will see from those figures,
from virtually zero to about 30 per cent or so in certain authorities.
Therefore, the difficulties faced will vary from area to area.
563. Is this not really down to a political
will? If the local authority decide this is going to be a priority,
they can achieve significant recycling rates. If they choose not
to, they achieve zero.
(Mr Toombs) It is down to local choice, taking account
of local circumstances and the demands of other service areas.
(Mr Lisney) If I might add to that, one of the issues
is that the changes around the country are very different. In
Hampshire we have the same systems that might apply in Sutton
and will be in Essex, and so on. The difference in collection
rate varies from five per cent at kerb-side to 33 per cent. That
is quite substantial for basically the same system. We have been
doing a lot of research on attitudes and where people live and
work, and so on, and you get information on the targets up and
down the country. These things vary. The issues are that lots
of authorities are trying to work together to do their managing
and get this information to know what is best for their area.
They have to do that, knowing their communities and engaging their
communities and that takes a lot of time. They also have to determine
the best practical environmental option. That is also an area
of difficulty because of the various solutions that are available
to communities these days and the cash then follows that.
564. The way of cutting through all of those
deliberations is to provide some incentives for local authorities
to meet the targets or to provide some penalties if they do not.
(Mr Lisney) One of the issues is if we were able to
charge. Certainly behaviourial changes come about substantially
if people are charged more directly and see more directly the
price they have to pay.
565. Would you like to charge people for domestic
(Mr Lisney) It is not the sole solution, however that
has changed behaviour very quickly in areas in Europe and abroad,
in Canada and the US, where that has been brought in in a very
short period of time. I am not saying that is necessarily a solution
that is acceptable and/or deliverable in the United Kingdom.
(Mr Tuthill) I can add to the comment I made on funding.
In the first five months of this year we experienced an 8.5 per
cent increase in waste, despite an extensive home composting campaign,
that is despite a fairly extensive education campaign going on
in Essex. That means there is another one million which has to
be found halfway through the year.
566. Are you saying that in Essex the build-up
of waste makes an incinerator practical?
(Mr Tuthill) I would hardly look at it in that way.
567. What effect has the landfill tax on local
(Mr Tuthill) It is costing Essex £9 million a
year. In terms of what we are getting back into better waste management
in Essex it is a minute fraction of that through various environmental
trusts, as a local authority we are a net loser. One thing it
has done, of course, is to increase the recycling credit which
we pay to the districts, so there is an additional sum of money
that has gone to support district recycling. There is also evidence
that material prices have been reduced as a consequence, so district
councils, in particular, are really no better off with the funding
for their recycling.
(Mr Toombs) Can I just add to that? It is fair to
say, in general, so far the landfill tax has not brought a lot
of benefits to local authorities from a waste management perspective,
although we agree with the sentiment of the landfill tax. What
it has done is it has drained significant resources away from
other service areas. What we feel is that if this is a genuine
environmental tax those monies should be going back into alternative
forms of sustainable waste management. It concerns us that of
the 20 per cent that can be raised from the tax credit scheme
only a fairly small percentage goes directly in respect of recycling.
It certainly cannot go into the immediate benefit of local authorities
themselves, which is something that we would like to see changed,
and we said in our evidence to you earlier. Secondly, if it is
a genuine environmental tax why is only 20 per cent returned to
waste management? We feel a much higher sum should be coming back.
If it did it could overcome a lot of the infrastructure problems
568. How would you like to change the way the
landfill tax credit scheme works?
(Mr Toombs) These are the two things essentially,
to see some means of directing the monies to assist local authorities
for improving the recycling infrastructure and such like. Secondly,
to see a greater percentage of the tax being available for the
(Mr Easteal) It has been very slow to filter through
in Essex, and I am sure elsewhere as well, that is despite the
fact that the main environmental trust has a good record and is
certainly helping us on the high diversion trials we spoke of.
If a lot of this is to do with transitional costs to make this
step-change, which is the point I am trying to argue at my end
of the table then, surely, there should be a major source of money
to enable us to make this step-change. I think it is unfortunate
that more money is not directly available to these trusts to help
us make this step-change.
569. Are the packaging regulations working?
(Mr Lisney) I think from the local government perspective
the answer is that in some areas some authorities have been able
to derive some benefit by working with packaging obligators. In
the majority of cases the local Government have not found this
a substantial benefit of that particular system.
570. Why not?
(Mr Lisney) Mainly because the obligations can be
met from most of the industry sectors without the requirement
for material from the domestic waste stream, and because that
material at the moment is collected and probably all sorted and
is a lower quality. In future those obligations will require more
material from the domestic waste stream and there might be more
meaningful dialogue between mutual sectors.
571. How would you like to change the current
position to help you in the job you are doing?
(Mr Lisney) The situation is changing with different
Directives coming from Europe. There is a lot more focus on eco-design
for recovery and take-back schemes, which will include local government
collection systems. By the time that feeds in hopefully the United
Kingdom will have systems in place and there will be greater synergies.
There is a difference between the local government system of budgets
and financing and the private sector. We have to find the means
to link those two and we do not have that at all yet.
572. In principle you strongly support those
Directives that are on their way from Europe. You will have heard
from the questions this morning there is quite a bit of debate
about the extent to which the increase in the waste stream of
3 per cent is a "real increase" as opposed toyou
were referring to a larger figure as far as you own authority
is concernedthe diversion of other waste disposing in the
past and to what is part of the municipal waste stream. Do you
have a view on where the truth actually lies?
(Mr Tuthill) I think an increasing affluence, certainly
in Essex, the increasing population and smaller numbers of persons
per household all contribute to additional waste. Indeed, as we
go to higher recycling activities inevitably wheelie bins are
introduced. There is plenty of evidence around the country to
suggest that wheelie bins actually generate waste.
573. It grows inside them.
(Mr Tuthill) I think it grows in people's gardens
and finds its way into the bin, whereas in a black sack system
the soil and garden waste generally gets left in the corner of
property, not with a strong wheelie bin. Indeed in Essex our own
statistics say there is something like 15 per cent extra waste
in those districts that have wheelie bins.
574. Could we have smaller wheelie bins?
(Mr Easteal) We are one of those councils which, for
no doubt good reasons at the time, decided to introduce wheelie
bins some years ago. They are greatly loved, for reasons you are
very aware of. When we go to a bi-weekly collection then we shall
reduce the scale of wheelie bins for each of those.
575. Domestic separated collection is one approach
that can lead to progress, can I ask in relation to amenity sites
in Essex, what proportion of the waste that arrives there is recycled
and what is the potential to increase that?
(Mr Tuthill) We introduced new contracts 18 months
ago with various incentives for the contractors to perform in
the way we wanted them to. That had the result of increasing the
recycling rate from 19 per cent, as it was under the old contract,
to 43 per cent last year. We are now on 58 per cent. We have a
best and worst performance, 70 per cent best and about 48 per
cent worst. All green waste that comes into the sites gets recycled.
What we are left with is the people that cannot be persuaded to
recycle their waste that insist on dumping it in the first container
they find, despite an army of people employed on the site to encourage
people to separate their waste. Of course there are some wastes
which are a mixture of materials which are not cost-effective
for the contractor to temporarily recycle.
576. Do you think there is any potential for
saying to people, "You can dump it in this first available
bin here but it will cost you, but if you assist the people working
here to put it in these other bins and to separate it out then
it will not"? We talked earlier about the extent to which
fiscal incentives might make a difference. At a civic amenity
site you have the advantage that people are choosing to go there
to get rid of their waste.
(Mr Tuthill) We are in process of designing a civic
amenity site as one of the high diversion trials in Essex, where
we are going to make it very easy for people to separate materials
for recycling. If they insist on putting waste in a waste container
then they are going to have to look for it at the far end of the
site and climb the steps. We are making it easy for recycling.
Charges would have a similar effect.
577. Is that not discriminating against people
who are physically less robust?
(Mr Tuthill) No, because in all of our sites we offer
a service where if the elderly and disabled request assistance,
assistance will be given.
578. Those recycling rates you described for
Essex, can I ask your colleagues, the LGA, how do they compare
with the local authorities generally?
(Mr Lisney) They are probably higher. In Hampshire
we are about the same level. It does require good leadership in
the contract management. Around the country I think you will see
different levels. There are some very good practices, the average
would be about 15 per cent or 20 per cent.
579. In other words, in view of what we have
been told there is considerable potential for a big improvement
as far as recycling is concerned?
(Mr Lisney) In terms of the overall recovery, the
CA sites, whatever they are called around the country, can provide
as much, if not more, than recovery from kerb-side collection
systems because they are very effective. Generally construction
waste, green waste is heavier stuff. They are very, very pivotal
to the massive amount of recovery. One of the areas that we have
been talking about is making them more available to the small
and medium sized companies in order to recover material which
we need from that sector as well.