MANUFACTURERS, RETAILERS AND AGRICULTURE
203. Some witnesses, particularly environmental groups,
argued that the Strategy adopted a "weak" approach to
industry. Friends of the Earth argued that the targets for industrial
and commercial waste "cannot be described as challenging"
and suggested that this displays "an unwillingness in Government
to challenge industry and commerce to improve its performance."
Certainly, against the range of targets which are being set for
local authorities, there is only one for industrial and commercial
waste in the Strategy and this is non-statutory:
- by 2005 to reduce the amount of industrial and
commercial waste sent to landfill to 85% of that landfilled in
204. The main routes for challenging industry to
act are through producer responsibility initiatives, taxation
and more widespread green procurement. We have already discussed
the importance of producer responsibility initiatives but a couple
of examples help to illustrate the potential and the problems.
First, the problem of junk mail leaves few members of the public
with anything less than frustration at the scale and regularity
of a wasted mail-out. Although we were told that the Government
is in talks about voluntary controls to regulate junk mail, we
are concerned that these should be introduced as soon as possible.
Any unsolicited mail should be clearly marked with a freephone
telephone number which can be used to halt further unwanted mailings.
Such mail should also be easily returnable at the expense of the
mailer and this should be made clear on the envelope.
205. Another example is provided in agriculture:
around 81,000 tonnes of plastic waste are generated by farmers
and growers each year.
At present, these materials are mostly dealt with on the farms
themselves and are usually burnt. A scheme to collect and recycle
such plastics was set up in 1988 but this collapsed twice, apparently
for financial reasons.
Successful schemes have, however, been set up in other countries
and these appear to rely upon a deposit and return basis.
There is no good reason why a similar scheme should not work here
in the UK.
It is, therefore, a classic case where producer responsibility
could have quick and effective results. Also within agriculture,
we were told of the development of farm waste management plans,
with limited guidance from MAFF. Currently, these deal with manures
and slurries. There is an opportunity, as agricultural waste comes
under the waste management licensing system, for MAFF to offer
broader advice on how to develop a comprehensive farm waste management
plan covering both natural and non-natural wastes.
206. Our earlier recommendations that the landfill
tax be increased and a tax on incineration be introduced should
play the major role in encouraging businesses of all descriptions
to look at their waste performance. One particular requirement
may help to fix waste in the consciousness of UK business. For
many years, there has been talk of environmental reporting and
recently, the Government has encouraged businesses to do this
voluntarily. However, this has not been particularly successful
and in our Report on UK Biodiversity last year, we recommended
that companies be required to draw up environmental accounts.
The voluntary encouragement of environmental accounting has
not been successful. It is now time to introduce a statutory requirement
on businesses to produce environmental accounts. Amongst other
things, these accounts should provide full details of the firm's
The Community Sector
207. The Community Sector is now a large player in
the waste sector, being particularly significant in recycling
and composting. Around 1.2 million homes have community-run kerbside
collections of recyclable materials and community groups are working
with between 20% and 30% of local authorities.
This is all the more impressive when one considers the limited
encouragement which this sector has received. The potential advantages,
however, are clear-cut and particularly apparent to a public which
is sceptical about the traditional waste management industries.
The Community Recycling Network related their own experience:
"On the most basic level,
we have fewer overheads because we have no shareholders. We are
better trusted by the community often than the private sector
or indeed sometimes the local authority. Because we are not for
profit, any surpluses we make are invested within the community,
usually in further waste management provision..."
Similarly, the Recycling Consortium told us that:
"We have an enormous
amount of experience. The organisations involved in the consortium
have been around for 20 years doing this sort of work. The waste
management companies are very new to this and have only been dragged
kicking and screaming often. We are also very innovative ... our
sole rationale is the promotion and development of waste reduction,
reuse and recycling. The waste management companies are driven
largely by the profit motive and will put their investment wherever
it is going to make the most profit. If that is recycling, so
be it, but it might not be. It might be energy from waste."
208. The Recycling Consortium suggested that further
work needs to be done on how to foster partnerships between local
authorities and community groups.
They also noted the threat posed by authorities letting long-term
integrated waste contracts which can tend to shut-out community
groups. This point is echoed by the Community Recycling Network:
"Integrated waste management
is an important concept, but does not mean that one large waste
management company can or should attempt to do everything within
a local authority area."
Joint tendering for refuse and recycling collection
contracts poses a real threat to the continued involvement of
the community sector.
209. The Community Sector must be encouraged to
take a greater share of the waste management business:
- Local authorities must be encouraged to recognise
the worth of community activities: a single, well-organised community
activist can often be more inspiring than a local authority employee
given the task of enthusing the local public;
- The Local Government Association should work
to ensure that best practice of working with community groups
is spread to all local authorities;
- The Government should urge local authorities
not to preclude separate contracts for recycling collections so
as to allow the community sector to bid. Integrated waste management
does not require single large contracts, just integrated thinking
in the structuring of waste contracts;
- We welcome the Government's intention to make
landfill tax credits available to community groups and we believe
that this should be incorporated into the changes we recommend
for the operation of the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme.
285 Ev p49 (HC 903-II) Back
Ev p54 (HC 903-II) Back
Waste Strategy 2000, Part 2, page 63 Back
Ev p158 (HC 36-II) Back
Ev p51 (HC 903-II) Back
Ev p211 (HC 36-II) Back
Ev p162 (HC 36-II) Back
Ev p94 (HC 903-II) Back
Ev p94 (HC 903-II) Back
Ev p101 (HC 903-II) Back
Ev p36 (HC 903-II) Back
Ev p100 (HC 903-II) Back
See, for example Ev p15 (HC 903-II) Back
See, for example, Ev p52, p70, p136, p167, p190 (HC 903-II); Q169 Back
Waste Strategy 2000, Part 2, Table C8, page 194 Back
Ev p184 (HC 36-II) Back
Ev p227 (HC 36-II) Back
See, for example, Q553, Q173 and Ev p167 (HC 903-II) Back
Ev p70 (HC 903-II) Back
Ev p128 (HC 903-II) Back
The Government's Response to the Environment, Transport and
Regional Affairs Committee's Report: Sustainable Waste Management,
Cm 4058, September 1998, page 4 Back
Ev p166 (HC 903-II) Back
Ev p36 (HC 903-II) Back
Ev p223 (HC 903-II) Back
Ev p217 (HC 36-II) Back
A point emphasised by the Farm Film Collectors Group (Ev p217
(HC 36-II)) Back
Transport and Regional Affairs Committee, HC 441 (1999-2000),
Paragraph 102 Back
Ev p195 (HC 903-II) Back