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

Examination of witnesses (Questions 580 - 586)



Christine Butler

  580. The role of incineration in delivering the system of waste management! There is definitely a change in tone, if not more, in the Government strategy document now than from its earlier draft, and I think authorities have been responding to this. In order to achieve the Landfill Directive diversion targets people are doing what they can in terms of recycling, we still have nine or ten years to go before that first target has to be met, 2010. In your opinion is there still sufficient time to look very seriously at alternatives to incineration before decisions are made? Would it be possible to have a presumption against incineration in Essex?
  (Mr Tuthill) The landfill contracts that I currently have expire in 2007. There is the possibility of extending those contracts for up to two years, where there is still ample capacity. Given the amount of time that it takes to bring on-stream almost any waste facility, whether one is talking about the civic amenity sites or an incinerator, it seems there is not a lot of difference in the time. Given that we cannot get to a situation in Essex where we fill the last landfill site we must prepare now. I see no difficulty in developing contracts which allow recycling to develop and not be hindered by, say, the introduction of incineration should that come out of the contracts.

  581. What have you looked at so far? What other sorts of facilities, apart from incineration, major technical facilities have you been looking at and costing?
  (Mr Tuthill) We have three central composting sites serving Essex. We are literally about to go to tender next month to get a wider network of composting sites, we hope. They will only be of use if the districts are able to afford to extract the organic material from the waste stream in order to deliver it to us. We have capacity with our existing sites. We will need a number of material recycling facilities but we do need to determine what level of recycling we are aiming at. One could have one in Essex that deals with recycling up to a certain level, a second one and maybe more comes on stream as recycling increases, with local delivery points. The county would need to bear the cost of moving the waste round.

  582. Do you think waste collection and waste disposal should be brought within a single board?
  (Mr Tuthill) Given the very challenging targets Government is giving us, given it is the only function that I am aware of that is really split 50/50 between the two tiers of local government, there has to be some way of bringing the two together, whether it is a waste management board, whether it is utility, whatever it is. Clearly we do need to have joined-up thinking to achieve cost-effective waste management. We cannot afford to make mistakes. There has to be absolute synergy between the two tiers.


  583. Can I ask you about markets for recycling? What have your local authorities done about increasing the proportion of local authorities buying recyclable materials?
  (Mr Tuthill) In Essex we have been only purchasing recyclable paper, where it has been available for some three or four years. We are encouraging people to buy other products made from recyclable materials in our own supplies catalogue, which applies across the authority. We identify those products which are made from recyclable material and encourage people to buy them. In terms of the market, the other thing we are doing is we have established Remade Essex, the miniature version of the national WRAP. That has been running for some months, it has investment from all of the local authorities in Essex and has done its first piece of work looking to stimulate interest in all aspects of composting in preparation for the new composting contracts, which we will be seeking next year.

  584. Hampshire?
  (Mr Lisney) Very similar to Essex.

  585. What sort of recyclable material is the council buying?
  (Mr Lisney) Its own use of paper recovery systems are all used, compost is used. We are currently looking with the procurement people at a more substantial scheme. In future there is going to be a lot more material and we are going to have to be much more involved in the specification than we are now. We have to go further up the ladder, really, that is the work we are doing now.

  586. From Chelmsford?
  (Mr Easteal) I think I can only echo what my colleagues said. Paper is one of the large things we buy. We have been buying recycling paper for many, many years. Not only that, we publicise this throughout the local community. Every dust-cart has a sign on it saying, "Buy recycled", as do county council vehicles as well. I think we are doing more than our bit in terms of purchasing recycled, but I am sure there is still more we can do.

  Chairman: On that note, can I thank you all very much for your evidence.

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