Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1080-
TUESDAY 12 DECEMBER 2000
1080. What are you going to do when the commercial
markets can go and buy quarries all over the place, and there
is no money going into the Tax Credit Scheme because they are
dumping waste into quarries?
(Mr Georgeson) I am not sure I follow the question.
Can you repeat it, please.
1081. These guys who are in the landfill business.
They have worked it out that they do not pay any tax whatsoever
if they buy a quarry and dump all their waste into a quarry. That
is becoming more predominantin my part of the world anyway.
(Mr Georgeson) We are talking specifically about the
issue of unlicensed tipping?
1082. No, no. This is licensed.
(Mr Cocker) How can there be a licence if they are
dumping landfill into it?
1083. They do not pay any tax if it is into
a quarry. They tell me that.
(Mr Cocker) You cannot dump it if it is an unlicensed
site. They must be behaving illegally.
Mr Donohoe: They say not.
Mrs Dunwoody: That makes them fairly unique,
does it not!
1084. If you can just tell me in a broad sense.
How do you convince a board of directors that they should pay
any attention to you or to the industry?
(Mr Cocker) There is an issue here of carrot and stick.
The good thing is that there is a tremendous amount of interest
amongst the FTSE 100 companies now in the whole issue of sustainable
development. If you look at the Business in the Environment Index
of Corporate Environmental Engagement -this is the thing which
is published in the Financial Times each year, when companies
are marked70 per cent of the FTSE companies are involved
in that. Those companies are very keen to demonstrate and enhance
their reputation by showing that they are actively involved in
this area. Now there are several questions they are asked on waste
within that overall survey. I think we can build on that level
of interest and enthusiasm amongst the large corporations and
bring waste out.
1085. But where you are in a high value area
of manufacturing, the last thing you worry about is throwing rubbish
into a skip. Is it really not a case that on the waste management
side you have to look at how they encroach into the business of
these high value product manufacturers?
(Mr Cocker) It might have been the case at one time
that the last thing people worried about was their waste but there
is a lot more evidence now that companies and large groups are
getting strategically interested in waste. We intend to raise
the profile of this by certainly drawing it to the attention of
the chairmen and chief executives. We will use the CBI and IOD
but also we will use our own personal contacts. A particular problem
is going to be the SMEs. There, I think, we need certainly to
try and adopt a route of putting together packages which are helpful
1086. How much public understanding would you
say there is of issues of waste generation and waste disposal?
(Mr Cocker) I suspect the level of public understanding
is probably not as high as it is in some places where recycling
has been very successful. We certainly believe that public education
will need to be improved and at different levels: at the local
level, where it clearly has to fit whatever the local arrangements
are, but also, of course, understanding the value of recycling
in its broadest context. This is because people have calculated
that if these targets are going to be hit by 2015, we have to
have an 80 per cent participation rate amongst households. Then,
of course, education about buying recycled products. Targeting
the corporations and public entities and, of course, the public
at large. This is an area that Mr Georgeson has quite a lot of
experience in so it might be worthwhile to hear what he has to
1087. I wanted to pass to Mr Georgeson for this
answer and ask how he intends to improve the level of awareness.
(Mr Georgeson) Waste Watch conducted research over
a year ago with NOP Research, a very general public attitudes
survey on waste. It is very clear from that, that the level of
public knowledge of what happened to their waste, their rubbish,
once it was put in the bin, was very, very low. Something like
30 per cent of the survey said they had any idea at all of what
happened to it (or indeed cared) until a planning issue appeared
on their own doorsteps. That is one of those constant issues that
we face. Waste Watch is involved with many other organisations
in the development of a National Waste Awareness Initiative: in
many ways, hopefully along the lines of large scale advertising
promotionfor example, like the clunk click campaigns
that ran in the 1970sin order to raise public awareness
and understanding of the problem and tied in with local and regional
variations. This is because the way that we treat waste is different
on a local and regional basis. To encourage people to engage in
what they can do locally: whether it be user kerbside recycling
schemes, or getting involved in home composting, or whatever is
appropriate, or combinations of measures that will be appropriate
on a local level. I can also say to you that we can demonstrate
the effectiveness of investing in public education and information.
In many ways, Waste Watch has been involved in a number of projects
that have worked very intensively with consumers, with householders,
and showed demonstrable increases in the levels of recycling or
recomposting over any fixed period of time. I would be happy,
if the Committee is not in receipt of this evidence, to submit
to you any further evidence you would like in this area, which
demonstrates how we can increase participation in recycling and
reduce waste going to landfill.
1088. Are you satisfied with the progress that
is being made?
(Mr Georgeson) No, I am not satisfied.
1089. Is that why you are leaving Waste Watch?
(Mr Georgeson) No, it is not, Chairman. I am very,
very sad to be leaving Waste Watch but after five years as director
it is time for me to move on. In 20 years involved in community
recycling, we have gone from 1 per cent domestic recycling to
9.4, so we have made some headway, but you and I know that there
is a lot further to go. I feel now that we have made some inroads
recently with waste management companies and local authorities,
in understanding how the education and the communication side
of our work needs to be fully integrated into the operations that
are managed on the ground. There is no point in having high quality
kerbside recycling schemes, if the way you communicate to the
public is to put one tatty leaflet in their letter box.
1090. Just going back to your research programme
and the business plan, to what extent have you assumed that you
might give fiscal incentives or grants for demonstration products
in order to encourage waste management and to kick-start programmes
and so on?
(Mr Cocker) At this stage we have not made any assumptions.
I will be able to tell you better when we get to April and when
we have had a look in detail at each of the market segments. If
we identified specific areas where we think that would be the
appropriate approach, then obviously we would point that out.
1091. You would. Just going back to Mr Donohoe's
earlier question about partnerships, where people have a good
idea, where you are a non-profit organisation is there anything
to stop you entering into joint venture arrangements to generate
some income for use in other areas of your work?
(Mr Cocker) There may be some cases where it is appropriate.
Certainly we would have to be very careful about opening ourselves
up to significant liabilities in that area. But if it was appropriate
and if we could manage that, then there may be one or two cases.
However, I do not see that as being necessarily the general approach
we would adopt.
1092. How do you plan to measure your success?
(Mr Cocker) I think we are going to have to measure
this at two levels. First of all, we are going to have to measure
our direct actions, things that we identify that we are going
to do in the business plan; and then subsequently whether we have
achieved these particular things that WRAP said it would do. Secondly,
there is a measurement in relation to the targets that we would
like to set for each of the waste streams and whether they have
been achieved. Clearly, we need to keep under constant watch whether
the actions we are taking, and others are taking, are moving us
in the right direction. If they are not, we would see it as part
of our job to comment on that.
1093. Is there any particular target that you
have in mind so that you could measure the success in, say, five
(Mr Cocker) For instance, we should be able to see,
as a result of our intervention, things like the volumes of materials
which have been processed, and increases in volume and value of
end market applications where we have had a direct involvement.
They clearly are measurable things. They are the specifics as
far as that is concerned.
1094. Finally, do you see a role for WRAP in
working with local authorities as they develop their waste management
practices? You referred earlier to the efficiency with which local
authorities collect waste. Do you see that as an area on which
you would be spending a lot of time?
(Mr Cocker) Certainly it is such an important part
of the overall scene that we should play a part there. If we can
help with disseminating best practice and commenting on that,
then we will. It is clear that our initial focus is on the industrial
and commercial markets and on developing those. But certainly
we do not want to exclude local government and I hope we will
get not only lots of members of WRAP who are involved in local
government, but also have somebody on the board with that sort
1095. Mr Dougherty, you have experience of this
area overseas and you are an adviser to WRAP rather than being
intimately associated with them. Looking at WRAP and how the Government
have set it up, do you think they are going to achieve what the
United Kingdom needs to achieve in terms of achieving recycling
targets, perhaps on the scale which have been achieved in Oregon
(Mr Dougherty) I would like to be optimistic at this
1096. I know you would like to be but I would
like you to be realistic in answering the question.
(Mr Dougherty) I think until it gets further down
the roadbut there is no reason why building on ten or 12
years' experience elsewhere they cannot work effectively with
industries here to develop the new markets, the new applications,
using the best processes in technology.
1097. I know there is no reason why they should
not develop but you have already seen, brutally exposed by Mrs
Dunwoody, the vacuousness of the business plan of this organisation
in its early stage. It is easy for Ministers and Government to
see a problem and say, "We are going to set up a solution,"
and then pass the problem to someone else; set aside some people
in an organisation (inadequately funded) to achieve a task; and
then when they are asked, "What are you doing about it?"
say, "We set up WRAP. Do not look at us." Then watch
it fall flat on its face three or four years later when it is
unable to achieve the target. Do you think it has sufficient focus
on what it ought to be doing and is there sufficient political
ownership behind it, from what you have seen, to succeed in driving
forward recycling targets in the United Kingdom towards 50 per
(Mr Dougherty) I think WRAP is one piece of the waste
strategy. It cannot achieve the targets for local authorities
without collecting the volume of materials necessary, so it is
one piece which calls for diversifying the demand and increasing
the value, but there are other pieces in the waste strategy that
all have to come into place for the United Kingdom to achieve
1098. But is not the truth, at the moment, that
the way it is set up is that it is too widely drawn, with too
few resources, over too many targets? Should not the simple focus
of WRAP be on market facilitation, given your experience in the
United Statesin fact, leave everything else out because
everything else is secondaryso that if we can achieve the
market in recycling and recyclables, then the United Kingdom will
achieve a target. Is that not the case?
(Mr Dougherty) Mr Cocker and the staff are on the
right path, it has to be materials specific. As Mr Cummings said,
the paper and plastic, particularly PET, are global in the markets;
but if you look at organicsglass, wood wastethose
all have to have markets within 60 miles of the city they are
being collected from. So the ability to develop those markets
throughout the United Kingdom is not the sole responsibility of
WRAP. WRAP is there to make that happen but other people have
to get engaged in those many processes in order for the United
Kingdom to achieve those targets, and to achieve the diversification
of these local markets which are going to be important to achieve
1099. Just cheer us up this morning. Convince
us that something is going to happen to these markets and you
are not going to suffer from bureaucracy.
(Mr Cocker) The last thing I am interested in doing
is setting up a bureaucracy.
1100. Come on, convince me that you are really
going to do something dynamic.
(Mr Cocker) As I have said, I have always been involved
in long-term projects. I have always recognised that you have
to put together a plan and in order to do that you have to include
people. There are many players here. It would be very tempting
to have put out a very detailed plan, which had come out just
from WRAP, but we have to involve everybody who is involved in
this sector in producing that. This is going to take time. I think
you have to recognise that when it comes out there will be specific
targets. We are prepared to stick our necks out and do that. We
are convinced that this is a big opportunity. Everybody who is
involved in this is convinced that there is an opportunity and
there is a solution. Why should we be one of the few countries
that cannot actually solve this problem?
Chairman: On that note, thank you very much
for your evidence. Thank you very much indeed.