Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Fourth Special Report



1. The Government welcomes the Select Committee's continuing interest in the issue of sustainable waste management. It does not agree with the Committee's criticism that the National Waste Strategy is too short term and unambitious. It does, however, recognise the need to review the delivery mechanisms.

2. Waste Strategy 2000 sets out a clear vision for achieving sustainable waste management and sets challenging targets for managing waste and resources up to 2020. These include the legal obligations placed on the UK under the landfill directive. The strategy and targets are due to be updated in 2005.

3. The Government is disappointed that the Committee has not acknowledged these challenging, long­term targets and the progress already made. For example, we have:

  • set legally­binding targets for Local Authorities to almost triple, on average, recycling and composting by 2005/06;
  • set up the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to overcome market barriers to recycling and composting;
  • provided new funding for councils through last year's Spending Review; and
  • spread best practice through the Beacon Council scheme, local Public Service Agreements (PSAs), Best Value networks and published guidance.

4. However, the Government acknowledges that the time is ripe to reassess how to ensure that the vision and targets in the strategy are delivered. It has therefore announced a review of the waste strategy to be undertaken by the Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU) which will deliver initial findings in the first half of next year with a final Report in the summer. The Select Committee's report will clearly be a very important input to that review.

5. The Government will look to the review to identify whether and where the strategy or the instruments currently available need to be strengthened. Its scope will therefore be wide and the review team will aim to consult with all key stakeholders. It will therefore inevitably address many of the issues underlying the recommendations of the Select Committee's report.

6. This response to the Select Committee's report sets out the Government's current view, subject to the further PIU review work.

The Committee describes the national recycling targets as unambitious and claim they don't compare well with other countries.

7. The Government does not accept that the recycling targets it has set are unambitious. High recycling rates in other countries are often cited as evidence that our targets are not ambitious enough. However, the method of calculating recycling and composting rates varies from country to country, and the definition of municipal waste also varies. For example, many countries include construction and demolition waste in their recycling rates for municipal waste - this waste is both heavy and easily recyclable, hence increasing the potential for higher recycling rates. Construction and demolition waste is however largely excluded from the figures for England and Wales. The recycling targets represent a floor, not a ceiling.

8. The UK definition of MSW includes:

  • Household wastes; collected waste, waste collected for recycling and composting and waste deposited by householders at household waste disposal sites.
  • Household hazardous wastes
  • Bulky wastes derived from households
  • Street sweepings and litter
  • Parks and garden wastes
  • Wastes from institutions, commerce and offices collected by the local authority.

9. Elements of this definition, such as street sweepings, can be difficult or costly to recycle. However, the Government believes its targets are challenging both on a like with like comparison with other countries and in relation to current performance. The PIU review will examine targets further.

10. The rest of this response comments in turn on the Committee's recommendations.

Recommendation A

11. The majority of those involved with waste in this country appear to be guilty of thinking without imagination and planning without ambition, of finding problems instead of solutions and aiming for short­term goals without a vision of the system of resource use and waste management which we should be striving for. The failure to implement real and ambitious change in waste management is all the more disappointing since the Government has had almost two full years between our previous Report and the publication of the Waste Strategy 2000. It is obvious to us that the Strategy fails to reflect the thrust of that Report and that many of our recommendations have been disregarded (paragraph 5).

Recommendation B

12. The Waste Strategy 2000 fails to offer an inspiring vision of sustainable waste management. It sets some useful short and medium term targets, but without the inspiration provided by a longer­term vision of what we are trying to do, it risks succeeding in its own narrow terms whilst failing to provide a foundation for a more sustainable system (paragraph 21).

13. Waste Strategy 2000 was the result of a wide consultative process and took account of many important contributions including the Select Committee's earlier report. It sets out challenging targets for the next 20 years.

14. The massive reduction in the landfill of biodegradable waste will require a sea­change in council and householder behaviour across the UK. The strategy also sets out the mechanisms (e.g. landfill tax, producer responsibility and WRAP) which will help create a major change in business behaviour.

15. The strategy sets out a greater number of medium term targets than long term targets. But it also commits the Government to reviewing the strategy and targets in 2005 and it will do so regularly thereafter. The PIU review is in addition to the commitment in the Strategy. The regular review will enable the Government to continue to set challenging medium term targets in the light of known performance and potential.

Recommendation C

16. We remain extremely disappointed with the data available on waste arisings: the data available is incomplete, unreliable and often published too late to be of use. This situation has hindered the development of both national and local waste strategies. Only with adequate data will we able to tell whether policy measures are successfully influencing people and businesses' waste decisions and determine what further measures are necessary. We recommend that the Government make sure money is made available to the Environment Agency to enable it to carry out continuous monitoring of waste. We also urge the Environment Agency to process the information more speedily than they have thus far managed (paragraph 24).

17. The Government agrees with the Committee that regular, reliable data on waste is vital. That is why it is working with the Environment Agency and others to improve the range and reliability of data available and are currently considering the requirements and funding arrangements for the next National Waste Survey. A key source of data, the Municipal Waste Survey, is now in its fifth year and last year the response rate from local authorities was close to 100%. This will provide a sound basis for analysis of trends in municipal and household waste generation and management. Furthermore, the Environment Agency has now published strategic waste management assessment (SWMA) reports for each planning region in England & Wales. These provide a range of waste information for each region, including detailed results from the 1998/9 Environment Agency survey of industrial and commercial waste.

18. This year DEFRA is providing £102.5 million in grant­in­aid to the Environment Agency for its environmental protection programmes. It is for the Agency to draw up detailed budgets. Some £30 million of grant­in­aid is dedicated to waste programmes each year. This should allow the Agency to take forward work across a range of waste issues.

Selection Techniques for Waste Management Options

Recommendation D

19. Although we recognise that computer models such as WISARD provide a consistent methodology for helping to determine the Best Practicable Environmental Option, we are concerned about a number of aspects of the use of these models. The temptation to use computer models as prescriptive devices to provide 'the answer' must be avoided: no model can ever provide the solution to a complex and partly judgement­based process such as determining BPEO. Further, the determination of BPEO must not be allowed to become a technocratic process which takes place in isolation from other interested parties, the output of which is then used to steamroller a sceptical public into options which they dislike or distrust. The definition of BPEO is that it is a "consultative decision­making process" and this must be adhered to, including making the use of any model available to the general public wherever practicable. The Government should issue clear advice to local authorities on the role of computer models in determining the BPEO and the need to accompany their use with comprehensive public information and involvement (paragraph 32).

20. We agree with the Committee that computer models should not be used as prescriptive devices to provide 'the answer'. The Environment Agency's WISARD software is a good example. It produces information on the environmental impacts of different strategies for managing municipal solid waste determined by the user. It provides users with an assessment of the life cycle impacts of these strategies to allow them to be compared and to assist in determining the BPEO. It can therefore aid, but cannot make, decisions on the BPEO.

21. The Best Practicable Environmental Option (BPEO) should be assessed by Waste Planning Authorities in the statutory consultations (which should involve all the key players) on their waste local plans and by all authorities for the municipal waste stream in their integrated waste management strategies. Waste Strategy 2000 sets out clear guidelines for establishing the BPEO: this process is to be guided by the waste hierarchy and the proximity principle. These overlapping principles do not necessarily always lead to the same conclusion. The Government recognises that this is not an exact science and that by its nature the BPEO for any waste may vary from time to time and place to place.

Minimisation and Resource Efficiency

Recommendation E

22. The Government does not appear to be taking waste minimisation seriously. There are few significant measures aimed at minimising the amount of waste and the Strategy embraces the current and future growth of municipal waste, rather than challenging it. We were told that the Government had not yet "broken the link between economic growth and waste" but it does not appear to be trying to do so. This acceptance of waste growth without challenge demonstrates our prime criticism of the Government's approach to resource use and waste management: that it lacks depth and ambition. The Government must set a target for reducing the rate of growth of waste and consider with some urgency precisely how it can drive waste growth down and ultimately reverse it (paragraph 39).

Recommendation F

23. We are sceptical about the Government's projections of future growth of municipal waste. The combination of predicted increases of between 1% and 3% and the 'gap' between targets for recycling and recovery may be providing a green light for excessive incineration capacity. The Government must work to determine the reasons which underpin the growth of municipal waste arisings and use this analysis to drive its minimisation efforts, rather than accept the growth as a fait accompli which must be accommodated (paragraph 42).

24. The Government agrees with the Committee's view that waste minimisation is a central challenge for everyone, and will be addressing this further in the forthcoming PIU study. The waste hierarchy is at the heart of Waste Strategy 2000 and the importance of tackling the overall growth in waste arisings, as well as encouraging re­use, is emphasised throughout the strategy. The Government notes that the Committee proposed that there should be further targets but did not define them or the practical measures needed to deliver them. The Government believes that targets on their own are insufficient to deliver waste minimisation - policy instruments are the key. The Government has introduced a wide range of measures to promote waste minimisation; for example, the landfill tax escalator, producer responsibility and support for Envirowise which provides advice to businesses on ways of reducing their waste.

25. Through these measures the Government aims to minimise the rate of growth in waste and if possible to reduce the total waste arisings. The 3% rate is a snapshot of the current position based on the last four years' data on municipal waste and is not a projection or forecast of future growth. It would have been irresponsible to ignore this apparent trend in creating the scenarios set out in Waste Strategy 2000. However, a key area of work for the PIU study will be the issue of waste minimisation, the role of targets and the possible tools for achieving minimisation.

Re­use and Recycling

Recommendation G

26. The kerbside collection of source­separated waste is a necessity if we are to transform waste management. It must be ensured that the Best Value regime works to increase the proportion of households covered by kerbside collections. A prerequisite of an authority being awarded beacon council status should be that at least 50% of its households be covered by kerbside collections. We also recommend that the Local Government Association develop in consultation with other appropriate bodies a best practice guide for local authorities wishing to introduce (or improve) kerbside collections (paragraph 51).

27. Waste Strategy 2000 sets out the Government's plans for large­scale increases in recycling and composting, and diverting more waste away from landfill. National targets are to recycle or compost at least 25% of household waste by 2005, 30% by 2010 and 33% by 2015. These are backed up by statutory targets for each local authority for 2003/4 and 2005/6. When achieved they should deliver nationally around 17% recycling and composting of household waste in 2003/4 and 25% in 2005/6.

28. How these targets are delivered is a decision for each individual local authority in consultation with local stakeholders and in the light of local circumstances. As a result of the statutory targets set under the Best Value regime we expect a major expansion of kerbside recycling, where it is the best environmental and economic option. But kerbside collection may not be appropriate for all areas; for example, in areas with high­rise blocks or which are highly rural it may be that systems with a greater reliance on local bring­sites might be more appropriate.

29. Dealing with waste was a theme in round one of the Beacons scheme under the theme of Sustainable Development. This did not focus on recycling alone, but concentrated on all aspects of waste management, including waste minimisation, recycling, energy from waste and diversion from landfill. Following the completion of the Beacons scheme in 2002, such waste management initiatives will be taken forward through Local Public Service Agreements, and measured against the Best Value indicators.

Recommendation H

30. The role of civic amenity sites in increasing recycling rates must not be neglected. The Government should ensure that best practice in designing and operating such sites for maximum recovery is widely disseminated (paragraph 52).

31. The Government agrees with the Select Committee that civic amenity sites will have an important role to play in helping local authorities to meet their recycling targets. The Beacon Council scheme under the Sustainable Development theme has been successful in disseminating examples of best practice for waste management. We have also launched a new initiative in partnership with the Local Government Association, the Institute of Wastes Management, the Environmental Services Association and IDeA (Information and Development Agency) on Best Value Waste Networks. The objective is for local authorities to form regional/local networks in partnership with the private and voluntary/community sectors for the dissemination of good practice.

Recommendation I

32. The national targets for recycling and composting provide a real challenge for the year 2005 (25%) but the targets for 2010 (30%) and 2015 (33%) are depressingly unambitious and appear implicitly to accept that there is a 'ceiling' on the proportion which can be recycled. These later targets fail to build on the significant efforts which will be required to meet the 2005 target and could result in a loss of momentum in recycling. We recommend that new targets be set of 50% by 2010 and 60% by 2015: these targets will ensure that vigorous efforts to recycle are maintained (paragraph 56).

33. The Government's aim was to set challenging but achievable targets with a view to reaching higher recycling rates in the future. We will keep our targets under review as technology improves, and composition of the waste streams changes. Meeting these targets will require a fundamental change in culture and as the momentum towards increased participation in recycling and composting grows, we can consider increasing the level of the targets.

34. In its 1998 report the ETRA Select Committee itself recommended that targets should be based on environmental benefit, practicality and proof. The targets in Waste Strategy 2000 were arrived at through a series of assumptions about the nature of the average municipal waste stream and the likely success of kerbside collection, as follows:

35. The product of all these assumptions gives a recycling rate for municipal waste, through kerbside collection, of 36.5% by 2020. However, the Government recognises that a further assumption built into these calculations is that the nature of waste arisings was likely to remain broadly constant until 2020. The Government accepts that the compositional data on which this analysis is predicated, should be reviewed regularly and, if appropriate, targets adjusted. The PIU study will also have a keen interest in these assumptions.

36. In any case the targets set are not meant to be seen as 'ceilings', but rather as challenging but realistic minima that every local authority should be able to achieve. In fact, 83 local authorities are required to achieve recycling and composting rates greater than 33% by 2005/6, although the overall national target for this date is 25%. New targets for 2010 will be set in 2005, and developments in recycling and product design by then may facilitate the achievement of higher recycling rates and enable more ambitious targets to then be set.

Recommendation J

37. Although the national targets for recycling and composting cannot be considered ambitious, the derived targets for local authorities may prove to be more than challenging within the confines of the funding available. To enable the true situation to be determined, we recommend that the Government publish clear costings of how local authorities will be able to achieve the recycling targets using the funding made available to them (paragraph 62).

38. Local authority waste and recycling activities are being supported through major extra funding from the Spending Review 2000 (SR2000). This includes an increase in revenue support for environmental, protective and cultural services, including waste and recycling, so that by 2003/4 revenue support will have risen by £1.1 billion over provision in 2000/1. SR2000 also includes provision for a £140 million ring­fenced fund for waste and recycling, and £220 million for PFI waste schemes over the SR2000 period. Recycling across all waste streams is also being supported by £40 million from the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to overcome market barriers to recycling.

39. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has also announced that £159 million will be available for a programme of environmental renewal and community regeneration through the next round of the New Opportunities Fund (NOF). This will include around £50 million across the UK for community sector waste reuse, recycling and composting projects.

40. It is for the local authorities to make their own local decisions, in the light of their local circumstances and opportunities, as to how they intend to meet their recycling targets. It is therefore not possible for the Government to cost to any precision how much money will need to be spent in any particular authority. The general costs of complying with the landfill directive, including the costs of diverting significant amounts to recycling are set out in the Regulatory Impact Assessment in volume 2 of Waste Strategy 2000.

Recommendation K

41. We agree with Robin Murray that the problem of markets for recycled materials is "a challenge for innovation, it is not an argument against the broad strategy proposal [to expand recycling]". Nevertheless, there are problems with markets and in our previous Report on Sustainable Waste Management, we concluded that the Government would need to intervene in markets to secure stability. This continues to be the case and the problems of markets for recycled materials must not be allowed to threaten the development of recycling. We are encouraged that the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) is planning to tackle this area. Where considered appropriate, WRAP should be able to recommend with confidence the introduction of subsidies for particular markets, or other measures requiring Government action (paragraph 68).

42. The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) was launched in November 2000 and is aimed at securing a significant increase in waste reduction, reuse, recycling and composting and an expansion in the markets for secondary materials. WRAP's main function is to deliver programmes which will tackle the market barriers to increased recycling. In doing this, however, the Government also expects WRAP to develop as a centre of expertise in market development and, where appropriate, to put forward to Government their views on other activities which could support their objectives, including recommendations about changes to Government policy.

Recommendation L

43. Producer responsibility is one of the strongest mechanisms to transform waste management but the Government appears to have a rather sluggish attitude to developing it and applying it to more product streams. Unless this instrument is used more extensively and effectively, the costs of transforming waste management will fall predominantly on the taxpayer in general, rather than industry and the consumers of specific products. In this area, the 'strategy' appears to be to implement any relevant EU Directives whilst paying lip service to developing voluntary initiatives. The stated reliance on a voluntary approach is unlikely to deliver improvements in any but the most straightforward product streams. We await the extension of producer responsibility initiatives to a much broader range of products within the waste stream, including cars, batteries, tyres and chewing gum (paragraph 78).

44. The Government supports producer responsibility schemes in principle, but needs to consider each proposal on its merits based on the details of the particular sector, product and the waste produced. The Government welcomes the fact that European Union initiatives have been taken in relation to such schemes and see this as a strength not as a shortcoming, given the competitiveness and single market consequences which can arise from unilateral action.

45. The End of Life Vehicles (ELV) Directive introduces producer responsibility measures for vehicles. As from 2007 producers must pay 'all or a significant part of the cost' for the free take back of a vehicle to an authorised treatment facility. The Directive also requires Member States to ensure that economic operators achieve 85% recovery and recycling targets for all ELVs by January 2006, rising to 95% by 2015. These targets should further encourage manufacturers to design their vehicles with recycling in mind.

46. The Landfill Directive introduces a staged ban on the disposal of tyres to landfill. As a consequence, it will be necessary to have a full recovery infrastructure in place capable of handling almost all used tyres arising. The Government is currently discussing a producer responsibility framework for used tyres so that these requirements are met. Tyre design and manufacture is a truly global business and the Government must ensure, through tyre performance regulations, that any product changes made in order to aid meeting waste targets, do not compromise the safety of the vehicle in use on the road.

47. The Government is awaiting new proposals from the European Commission on the recycling of batteries which will update the present batteries Directive. Any new proposal is likely to set new recycling targets. The Government will consider carefully the text of any Commission proposal when it is published.

48. As for chewing gum, manufacturers have a duty to contribute where they can to ensuring that their products are used and disposed of in the correct way. The general problem of chewing gum disposal is being tackled by the former Tidy Britain Group (now ENCAMS) who are working with local authorities and the private sector, including chewing gum manufacturers. Their aims are to educate and encourage better gum disposal and to investigate alternative methods of gum removal.


Recommendation M

49. Source separation remains the key to a better waste management system: an expansion of composting, like recycling, will be of greatest merit if it makes use of materials which are separated out by householders. The use of mixed waste to make a compost­like material is a poor alternative which must not be allowed to prosper at the expense of schemes based on source separation and a higher quality product (paragraph 83).

50. The Government is committed to seeing an increase in the amount of waste composted and recycled, in order to meet the challenges of sustainable development and the stringent targets in the European Directive on Landfill. This will require the amount of biodegradable municipal waste landfilled to be cut in three successive stages, over a 20 year period, to 35% of that produced in 1995.

51. The Government has therefore set two goals for 2010: recycling or composting 30% of household waste; and recovering value from 45% of municipal waste (by recycling, composting and incineration with energy or heat recovery). The Government aims to recover value from at least two thirds of household waste by 2015, at least half of this by recycling or composting.

52. The Government agrees that source separation of wastes is generally the best approach to composting, although this will be dependent on the practicalities of collection. We agree that separated wastes can produce a higher quality end product fit for a range of uses. Although the technology may exist in the future to produce a compost from mixed waste of the same quality as from source separated waste this is not at present practicable. We would normally expect separation at source to be promoted in all cases, unless the costs compared to the environmental benefits are unreasonable.

Recommendation N

53. We are pleased that the Composting Association has established a system of standards for the quality of compost but are baffled and disappointed that the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions did not actively assist the Association in doing this. We expect the DETR to take an active role in implementing these standards and ensuring that they become established. If the standards fail to be accepted, we recommend that the Government act to make the standards for compost statutory (paragraph 85).

54. We agree that standards for composts are vital if we are to increase the composting of waste and promote the use of compost as a soil improver and growing medium. Effective standards will give the consumer confidence in the product they are using. We therefore fully support the Standards for Compost developed by the Composting Association; the Department of Trade and Industry participated in this work, having earlier been involved in activity aimed at developing EU standards for soil conditioners and growing media.

55. The Government is following up this work through WRAP, which is working with the relevant bodies to produce a comprehensive programme of standards for compost products, complete with support for implementation and monitoring during the start up phase.

Recommendation O

56. Although we appreciate the difficulties of counting home composting towards local authority targets, its exclusion is unacceptable. If it is not counted, there is no incentive for local authorities to encourage this, the most desirable form of composting. The Government, the Local Government Association, the Composting Association and the Community Composting Network should work together to find an acceptable proxy for the amount of home composting in the targets for local authorities (paragraph 86).

57. The Government decided to exclude home composting from local authority targets for the following reasons:

58. The Government is working with the Environment Agency and together have commissioned research to determine the environmental impacts of home composting and to produce a method for calculating the diversion rates achieved by home composting. Following the completion of research into these impacts by the Environment Agency, the inclusion of home composting in the household waste recycling targets will be reviewed.

59. However, the Government does not accept that there is no incentive for local authorities to encourage home composting as this activity would reduce the amount of waste handled by an authority and therefore its costs.

Recommendation P

60. We urge the Government to publish the consultation document on revised exemptions from the Waste Management Licensing system. This has now been promised for more than two years but has yet to appear. These delays pose problems for many, not least those involved in community composting (paragraph 87).

61. The Government intends to publish the consultation paper shortly. However, its publication has been delayed due to the need to concentrate resources on the waste disposal consequences of the foot­and­mouth epidemic. The consultation will cover the proposed revision of some of the exemptions from waste management licensing, based on the results of research and recommendations from the Environment Agency. This will include proposals to amend the existing exemption for small­scale composting, which take into account the views of the community composting sector.

62. However, it is incorrect to say that community composting is effectively outlawed under the existing system: composting may be carried out under the existing exemption for small­scale composting, which allows community compost to be carried out at, for example, allotments where the compost is used; or in accordance with a waste management licence. The consultation will also contain proposals to amend those exemptions subject to allegations of abuse: for example by tightening these to preclude their use for "sham recovery" (i.e. waste disposal); to set minimum inspection frequencies by the Agency; and to introduce charges. Proposals for new exemptions will also be consulted upon, these include small scale land remediation of contaminated land, recovery and storage of waste oil and the burning of dunnage at ports. The exemption revision exercise aims not only to tighten exemptions which are being abused, but also to ensure exemptions are properly framed so that those processes which constitute legitimate recovery and do not require the full controls of waste management licensing can benefit .

Energy from Waste

Recommendation Q

63. The arguments about the health effects from incinerators are complex and are based on incomplete knowledge. There are, however, some truths which can be drawn from the debate over the health impacts of incineration. Firstly, that the health effects which result from an incinerator's emissions are not yet fully known. Secondly, that the regulation of incineration to date has been rather poor and that this has resulted in poor practices developing in some incinerators. This, in turn, has raised the levels of anxiety amongst the public. Regulation must encompass emissions, the handling of the ash and all other aspects of the operation. Lastly, the lack of pre­separation of potentially hazardous materials, such as PVC, treated wood and batteries, increases the risk of emission limit values being exceeded (paragraph 97).

64. The fully integrated permitting of municipal solid waste incinerators (MSWI) will begin shortly with the implementation of the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) regime. This will cover all aspects of the process including handling of waste ashes and residues which are not currently within the single integrated regime.

65. The lack of pre­separation of hazardous materials is cited as a possible pre­cursor to breaches of emission limit values. This is covered by Article 5 of the newly adopted Waste Incineration Directive which requires an assessment of the hazardous potential of wastes in order to determine appropriate mixing of wastes before incineration. This directive will come into force for new incinerators from 28th December 2002 and existing incinerators from 28th December 2005.

66. It is not currently technically or economically viable to separate out such potentially 'hazardous' materials as may be in the waste stream. In reality, the key to further reducing pollution from incineration due to hazardous materials being present would be to have separate collection/disposal arrangements to remove such material from the residual municipal waste stream.

Recommendation R

67. The Environment Agency must provide a better standard of inspection of incinerators if the public's confidence is to be regained. The Agency will also need to examine its strategy for communicating the risks from incineration to the public. In addition, continuous monitoring of the emissions from all incinerator stacks should be carried out and the data made freely and easily available to the public. Where recurrent breaches of limit values are found to occur, the operator should be fined. If breaches continue to occur, the plant should be closed down. Only with the combination of better, more rigorous regulation and greater transparency will it be possible to convince a sceptical public that incinerators need not pose a major risk to human health (paragraph 98).

68. The Government and the Environment Agency are strongly committed to giving effect to the public's right to know about polluting emissions. Under the current Environmental Protection Act authorisation regime, information is available on public registers, except where it is withheld in the interests of commercial confidentiality or national security. Access to these registers is free. The Environment Agency's Pollution Inventory provides internet access to comprehensive emissions data on 150 pollutants which have the potential to cause harm to man or the environment.

69. The Pollution Inventory currently provides details of emissions to air, land and water from over 2,000 of the most potentially polluting processes regulated by the Environment Agency under the Integrated Pollution Control (IPC) regime. It contains readily accessible and comprehensive information on the pollutants emitted from individual sites, their contribution to national pollution levels and the health effects of certain chemicals. The public can access this information through the Agency's website (www.enviroment­ and from local Agency offices (general line: 0845 933 111). The Agency is working with local environmental health departments and public libraries to improve public access to this information further.

70. In addition, the implementation of the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive will increase the number of sites reporting from 2000 IPC sites to around 7000 IPPC sites in 2003. Earlier this year, the first data from the industry sectors new to annual emissions reporting was announced. This included key radioactive substances, regulated sites and larger sewage treatment works.

71. Emissions from diffuse sources such as transport emissions are already readily available through the National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory which is integrated with the DEFRA air quality monitoring system. It can be viewed on or accessed through links from the Pollution Inventory website.

Continuous Monitoring

72. It is the Environment Agency's technical experts' opinion that a viable continuous monitoring (as opposed to the continuous sampling) technique for stack dioxin measurement has not yet been developed. Continuous monitoring involves real time sampling and analysis of emission levels, providing results on site.

73. Continuous dioxin sampling is in use in Europe, this involves a sampling device being placed in the stack, which can extract samples over a given period of time, typically two weeks, the whole sample then being sent for analysis. The Environment Agency considers that continuous sampling techniques may encounter additional uncertainties in relation to ensuring the integrity of the sample. The method currently used by the Agency requires samples to be taken at a variety of locations in the duct in order to account for stratification of the stack gases and a continuous sampler in a fixed position would not account for this. The analytical stages of the continuous technique will be subject to the same errors as point sampling.

74. The Environment Agency regularly reviews sampling and monitoring systems to ensure authorisation conditions reflect the latest practicable technologies and techniques. Agency representatives have visited plants in Europe where this continuous dioxin sampling technique is employed and have begun a two year research and development project looking at the viability of this system for use in the UK.

75. Typically, incinerators will have continuous monitors for emissions for sulphur dioxide, particulates, oxides of nitrogen, hydrogen chloride and carbon monoxide. Some will also have continuous monitoring for hydrogen chloride and volatile organic compounds. Where continuous measurement is technically not possible or unproven, such as for heavy metals and dioxins, the Agency requires extractive testing by the operator in addition to Agency­commissioned sampling by an independent contractor.

76. All monitoring and sampling data concerning authorised processes are available on public registers discussed above, for inspection free of charge during normal office hours.

Enforcement of Emissions Breaches

77. The Environment Agency initially categorises incidents in accordance with environmental impact on four levels:­ major, significant, minor or none. The enforcement response is driven in general by this judgement of severity. The range of possible actions includes issuing a warning letter, a formal warning, serving an Enforcement Notice and serving a Prohibition Notice. Most breaches of authorisation have minor or no impact and in these cases prosecution has only been used as a last resort where other more proportionate methods, for example serving enforcement notices have not proved successful.

78. However, the Environment Agency appreciates that repeated minor breaches can demonstrate a lack of control and is revising its guidance accordingly. Under this guidance prosecutions will normally be pursued for minor incidents where the operator has shown a history of non­compliance sufficient to call into question the effective management of the site /operation or to prevent effective regulation by the Agency.

Reduction in emissions from incinerators ­ - actions

79. Throughout the implementation of the Integrated Pollution Control regime the Agency has been aware of the need to ensure that this sector of industry has been the subject of tough, consistent and proportionate regulation. Since April 1996 the Agency has instigated a number of policies on incinerator regulation that have significantly cut emissions and the potential for emissions from the sector, including:

  • Introduction of a dioxin limit of 0.1ng/m3 for all existing and new municipal waste incinerators despite there being no current requirement for a dioxin limit this low in EU legislation.

  • Imposition of limits for oxides of nitrogen on all municipal waste incinerators, even though the EU Directive on Existing Municipal Waste Incinerators (89/429/EEC) did not require it;

  • Implementation of Council Directive 94/67/EC on the reduction of air pollution from hazardous waste incineration plants. This lead to the tightening of some emission limit values for certain plants. The Agency had already imposed similar standards on some incinerators burning hazardous waste in advance of the directive becoming effective.

80. The Environment Agency needs to deliver high quality regulation of the incineration sector and is currently working on initiatives in the following areas:

  • The development and introduction of an agreed sampling and analysis protocol for municipal solid waste incinerator ash. All municipal solid waste incinerators are now required to use the protocol and report the results to the Agency, which places them on the public register;

  • Ash tracking, including the development and trialing of a system to ensure that the ash generated by municipal waste incinerators can be accounted for by receipts at properly licensed or registered waste management facilities;

  • Human Health issues, The Agency has already begun a research project to assess the health effects, and improve knowledge of the health impacts of waste incineration; and the development and use of Health Impact Assessments in conjunction with DEFRA and the Department of Health;

  • Clarifying the Agency's locus in the Land Use Planning/Development Control system, including a clearer policy framework/guidance in relation to Regional, Structure, Unitary and Local Plans. Working with Government on influencing the revision of Government Planning Guidance ("PPGs") and Statutory Guidance on Sustainable Development. Closer working with local planning authorities over development plans and individual planning applications;

  • Waste Incineration Directive implementation, including updated technical and regulatory guidance; policy on pre­application work; permit and notice templates; and guidance on interaction with other regulatory regimes, the Waste Strategy 2000 and environmental impact issues;

  • Information for the public, including a comparison of standards with incinerators in other countries, and an explanation of the Agency's role in the regulation of incinerators; and

  • Research, including techniques for greater understanding of public attitudes and concerns, increased learning from the experience of other countries; development and refinement of technical tools to inform Regional Waste Strategies and Regional Technical Advisory Boards; and development of targeted policies for particular waste streams such as tyres.

Reduction in emissions from incinerators ­ - results

81. Emissions modelling figures for municipal waste incinerators are shown in the table in the Annex at the end.

Recommendation S

82. The nature of incineration is such that it can 'crowd out' recycling: if a significant number of large incinerators, operating on long contracts, are allowed to be built, the long­term prospects for recycling will be diminished. The real challenge, then, is to keep the contribution of incineration to a reasonable level. For this reason, the Government should consider how to ensure that incineration is used only for sorted waste from which materials of value have been reclaimed. Further, the average size of incinerator currently planned is too large and the Government must offer a clear signal that the building of incinerators above a capacity of 100,000 tonnes per annum is unlikely to be approved (paragraph 106).

Recommendation T

83. We are concerned that incinerators may end up being built according to the 'path of least resistance' rule. If allowed to happen, this may mean that poorer areas of towns and cities are left effectively blighted by the presence of a large incinerator. This must not be allowed to happen. If incineration is safe then a sceptical public must be convinced and incinerators should then be sited in the most appropriate places which could be out­of­town shopping centres or adjacent to town­halls and other offices, rather than the poorest areas. When siting incinerators, the main factor should be the existence of a suitable local demand for the hot water and electricity produced (paragraph 110).

84. One of the key objectives of the Government's Waste Strategy, set out in Waste Strategy 2000, is that where waste cannot be avoided, recycling and reuse should be maximised and the need for incineration and landfill minimised. The Government has no plan for any particular number of incinerators, but it does not rule out the use of incinerators as part of a local integrated waste management plan.

85. The choice of waste facilities is a matter for local authorities in consultation with their local communities. However, where it does not make sense to recycle or compost waste, consideration may be given to the recovery of energy from waste. Energy­from­waste facilities should be small enough that they do not compete with recycling, and should include Combined Heat and Power (CHP) - where heat is used to produce electricity and provide heating to homes or businesses - wherever possible.

86. Where incineration is considered to be the Best Practicable Environmental Option for dealing with waste, the development should be sited in the most appropriate location. Planning Policy Guidance note 10 "Planning and Waste Management" gives general advice on the location of waste management facilities. Given the transportability of electricity, the local demand for power is irrelevant to the siting of an energy from waste plant.

87. In a plan­led system, consideration of the siting of major waste management facilities begins with waste planning authorities preparing their waste local plans. These set out the authorities' policies and proposals for dealing with waste in their areas, including the identification of sites for any new or extended facilities which might be required. It is important - and therefore a statutory requirement - that the public becomes involved in this process so they can be fully informed about the future development and use of land in their areas.

88. Crucial to any discussion of the role of incineration is the effect of the statutory targets for recycling and composting of household waste which councils have been set. Compliance with those targets will mean that any extra incineration capacity will be delivering a diversion from landfill, not recycling. As the targets increase over time, more of the waste which would otherwise have gone to the incinerator will be recycled.

89. Furthermore, as discussed earlier, the requirement to recycle and compost increasing amounts of waste is likely to mean increasing amounts of kerbside collection of separated waste for recycling and a greater density of bring sites. Materials recovered from the ash from an incinerator do not count against an authority's recycling target. These facts together should mean that waste going to an incinerator will increasingly be residues from earlier processing, either by the householder or at the front end of the incinerator.

90. There is also little evidence incineration does crowd out recycling in practice. In Europe, high recycling economies are typically also high incineration economies with little or almost no landfill.

91. This section has set out the Government's current position on the role of incineration and other energy from waste in delivering the waste strategy. However, all these issues will be key concerns for the PIU study now starting into the waste strategy.

Recommendation U

92. An increase in incineration must not be allowed to be imposed by any 'back door' route, such as Lawful Development Certificates. In particular, the conversion of existing industrial facilities to incinerators to deal with the remains of BSE­infected cattle should only be allowed if sought through a full application for planning permission (paragraph 113).

93. The Lawful Development Certificate system is set out in statute. It provides the possibility of obtaining a statutory document confirming that the specified use, operation or activity is lawful* for planning control purposes. Applications are decided entirely on evidential fact and the relevant planning law. The planning merits are immaterial to the decision. A Lawful Development Certificate does not remove the need for compliance with any other regulatory regimes or other requirements.

94. In addition, animal remains incinerators with a capacity of over 50 kg per hour must be authorised under Part 1 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and its successor regime the Pollution Prevention and Control Act 1999.

* The Town and Country Planning 1990 Act, as amended, defines 'lawful' in relation to an existing use as one against which no enforcement action may be taken because development is or was not involved, or the time within which enforcement action could be taken (10 years in the case of uses) has expired.

Recommendation V

95. We welcome the Government's amendments to the rules for Private Finance Initiative funding and expect these to be fully enforced to ensure that incineration plays only a moderate role in most bids. Further, the Government should examine whether the PFI rules can be changed so that long­term improvements in recycling and composting facilities can be funded from this source. If not, we recommend that the role of PFI funding for waste management be progressively reduced (paragraph 116).

Recommendation W

96. We recommend that PFI approval not be given until planning permission has been granted for the facilities required (paragraph 117).

97. The revised criteria for waste Private Finance Initiative(PFI) schemes, published in September of last year, state that schemes must demonstrate clear links to the objectives of the national Waste Strategy 2000. Private Finance Initiative proposals should demonstrate how they match or exceed local performance standards for recycling and contribute to longer term national targets for recycling in Waste Strategy 2000.

98. Proposals which include incineration must also demonstrate that all opportunities for recycling have been considered first and that the arrangements proposed will not produce a barrier to the longer term development of recycling. We anticipate therefore that PFI funding will help to fund long­term improvements in recycling and composting. There is no reason why a PFI bid coming forward should necessarily include incineration. The Government has already approved one large scheme which includes no energy from waste.

99. It is acknowledged by both the public and private sector that obtaining planning permission is a major risk to all waste disposal projects due to the nature of the activity being undertaken. It is for this reason that contractors have to fund the planning stage entirely out of equity.

100. Obtaining planning permission can take a minimum of 15 months and may take considerably longer. During this period, the contractor is usually required to undertake interim services to dispose of waste by existing means and negotiate favourable contract rates with the councils involved. The Government considers that waiting for PFI contractors to be granted planning permission before allocating grants to them would interfere with the management of these projects.

Recommendation X

101. We do not accept that energy from waste incineration is a renewable form of energy. Even if one considers that it meets the technical definition of renewable energy, it utterly fails to meet what might be called a 'common­sense' interpretation. A waste stream is only 'sustainable' in the most twisted definition of the word since sustainable waste management has as its cornerstone the minimisation of waste, and the explicit maintenance of waste streams for the purposes of incineration is in complete contradiction of this principle. By classifying energy from waste as renewable energy, a signal is sent to the public and business that it is acceptable to continue producing waste because 'renewable energy' is generated from it. We therefore recommend that:

102. The Renewables Obligation consultation paper, published on August 3 2001, outlines the forms of energy production that may count towards the Government's target that by 2010, 10% of electricity sales by licensed electricity suppliers will come from renewable sources which are eligible for the Renewables Obligation. Electricity generated from the incineration of mixed waste will not be eligible for the Renewables Obligation or the Government's target. Energy recovery from the non­fossil fraction of waste will only be eligible when advanced technologies such as pyrolysis and gasification are used. This is to encourage the uptake of these advanced technologies (see paragraph 113 below).

103. The Government is surprised that the Committee makes no distinction in their report between energy recovery from incineration of biodegradable and non­biodegradable waste. The EU Directive on the promotion of electricity produced from renewable energy sources in the internal electricity market, which was adopted on September 27 2001, defines only the biodegradable fraction of waste as renewable. The Government exemption of energy from waste under the Climate Change Levy has been amended in line with the EU definition of renewables.

Recommendation Y

104. Despite some changes to the various measures, we are very concerned that incineration may be being favoured by the structure and nature of fiscal instruments. There must be no subsidy to the growth of incineration. If fiscal instruments favour the development of incineration, then the result in 20 years time could be a large and overbearing incineration industry which effectively crowds out the more attractive options of minimisation, re­use, recycling and composting (paragraph 122).

105. As noted earlier the guidance to local authorities for PFI schemes makes clear that PFI proposals which include incineration must demonstrate that all opportunities for recycling have been considered first and that the arrangements proposed will not discourage the longer term development of recycling. The Government is satisfied that other than in relation to the non­fossil fuel element of the renewables obligation (see paras 102­103 above) incineration does not receive subsidy or beneficial fiscal treatment.

Recommendation Z

106. We recommend that the Government introduce a tax on incineration. This tax would ensure that waste management did not simply shift from being a landfill­dominated system to an incineration­centred one. It would help shift strategic thinking from end­of­pipe solutions to materials recovery. Hazardous waste should be exempt from the tax. In the first instance, the incineration tax should be set at the same level as the landfill tax and the revenues from this tax should be hypothecated along with landfill tax revenues to help transform waste management (paragraph 124).

107. It is recognised that there will need to be a huge shift in the quantities of waste away from landfill as a consequence of the demanding targets for diversion of biodegradable municipal waste from landfill under Article 5 of the Landfill Directive, and that the great majority of this waste will need to be recovered through recycling and composting. Given the volumes of waste involved it is possible that more incineration will be needed. This should be linked to energy from waste, although individual decisions to build such facilities will need to be taken at a local level.

108. The Government will keep under review whether there should be a tax on incineration and if so what form it should take.

Recommendation AA

109. The Government has dodged difficult questions on incineration and has failed to offer a sufficiently detailed vision of the way in which incineration should play its role. It has changed its tone between draft and final strategy, and seems to be avoiding the issue of how many incinerators will need to be built, what scale they should be or indeed any other characteristic of their use. The Government has also failed to rise to the challenge of analysing and communicating the risks from incinerators (paragraph 125).

Recommendation BB

110. Incinerating waste will only ever play a limited role in a system which aims for efficient resource use and sustainable waste management. Nevertheless, we accept that some increase in the amount of waste incinerated is inevitable. We are extremely concerned that the facilities which are being planned are, on the whole, large­scale mass­burn facilities for which it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to gain public acceptance, and which risk undermining efforts to increase reduction, reuse and recycling. Government should make clear that:

smaller incinerators are preferred and that these must be used to provide Combined Heat and Power wherever possible;

  • incineration is only acceptable where it is used to burn sorted, post­recycled waste, not mixed household waste (paragraph 128).

111. These recommendations are dealt with under the section on recommendations S and T above.

Recommendation CC

112. We recommend that the number of pilot schemes for new techniques such as pyrolysis, gasification and anaerobic digestion be expanded. The aim of these schemes should be to assess the environmental credentials of the different techniques against those of incineration (paragraph 129).

113. The Government agrees with the Committee that new techniques such as pyrolysis, gasification and anaerobic digestion should be encouraged, which is why the Government has proposed the inclusion of these technologies in the Renewables Obligation. It will be examining how it can improve the testing and take­up of new waste disposal technologies.

Landfill Tax

Recommendation DD

114. The landfill tax at its present level is too small an incentive to change established behaviour significantly: it is little more than an irritant to those making provision for waste management. We are disappointed that the Government are using the 'wait and see' argument before acting to raise the landfill tax to an effective level. The Government should have the courage of its convictions and use the landfill tax to provide a strong incentive to move away from a landfill­based system of waste disposal. We recommend that the landfill tax be increased to at least £25 per tonne over the next 5 years with all funds from the increased tax rate going into the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme. This recommendation cannot be seen in isolation and must be implemented together with those we make for the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme and our proposal for an incineration tax (paragraph 136).

115. Increasing the cost of landfill compared with other waste management options encourages waste producers to seek ­ and the waste management industry to offer ­ more sustainable alternatives.

116. We have already announced that there will be staged increases in the active rate of the tax until 2004 when it will stand at £15 per tonne for active waste. This rate of increase represents a balance between the need to send clear and increasingly strong economic signals to reduce reliance on landfill, and the need to provide those who will be affected with time to plan and develop alternative waste management services and facilities.

Landfill Tax Credit Scheme

Recommendation EE

117. The Landfill Tax Credit Scheme provides a convoluted and, to date, ineffective method of funding sustainable waste management. Rather than attempt reform of the existing system whilst protecting its status as 'private expenditure', we recommend that this charade be abandoned. The new system should consist of a fund which takes a given percentage of the revenues from the Landfill Tax (and the incineration tax which we propose) and is bid for by those wishing to undertake work. The landfill operators would no longer control the destination of any of the funding. Community schemes and general environmental projects (categories D and E) should be restricted to a smaller portion of the credits than they receive at present, and we expect all the additional credits raised by the increased landfill tax and the new incineration tax to be put directly towards minimising, re­using and recycling waste. There would be no bar on those wishing to apply for funding and the eligibility of local authorities should be related to their ambition and performance in meeting targets for improving recycling and composting. The fund should be seen, in particular, as a way of covering the transitional costs, for example, of setting up a kerbside recycling scheme. The revenue should also be the source of funds for WRAP to meet its essential task in establishing markets for recycled products (paragraph 145).

118. The Government has announced that in the longer term it is attracted to replacing all or part of the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme (LTCS) with a public spending programme to direct resources towards Government priorities on sustainable waste management and, in particular, to supporting the recycling of household waste. It therefore proposes to consult in the coming weeks on options for change to the LTCS and will assess the current or slightly modified LTCS against a public spending scheme as part of the forthcoming

Spending Review 2002

Recommendation FF

119. If Entrust is to remain as the regulator, it must work with Ebco to enable the council to form a representative and effective users group. This will require greater co­operation and professionalism from both Entrust and Ebco. We expressed disappointment with the nature and progress of Ebco nearly two years ago: it is simply unacceptable that Ebco is not established and working well by now (paragraph 151).

120. It is true that it has taken some time to establish an effective relationship between Entrust and Ebco. Customs and Excise encouraged Entrust to establish a group which would inform them of Environmental Bodies' (EBs') views on how Entrust could minimise the regulatory burden on EBs by, for example, suggesting ways of simplifying their forms or offering alternative ways of conducting their regulatory procedures. Unfortunately, until recently, Ebco appears to have focused more on lobbying for changes to the LTCS at the expense of carrying out its fundamental purpose. However, following personnel changes in Ebco, it is now functioning more effectively and is providing Entrust with useful feedback.

Recommendation GG

121. On reflection, we conclude that the best interests of the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme will be served by the replacement of the regulator, Entrust. The new regulator should be closer to Government and will be required to play an active role in steering the credits available into the most appropriate projects (paragraph 155).

122. Once the shape of any revised LTCS is known, consideration can be given to the need for, and role of, any regulator. That is the time when it will be appropriate to look at the desired qualities and constitution of the regulator.

Players: Government

Recommendation HH

123. We remind the Government of its commitment to expanding the use of environmental taxation. We urge it to take a considered and holistic look at the fiscal regime for waste management. This should, in particular, consider what instruments will be required to achieve the necessary long­term transformation of waste management. Without a consistent and coherent set of fiscal instruments in this area, we risk shifting waste from one technique to another without reference to any overall strategy (paragraph 162).

124. We agree that it is vital to maintain a consistent and coherent approach to waste economic instruments. In line with the Government's Statement of Intent on Environmental Taxation, published in July 1997, environmental taxes should meet the tests of good taxation:

125. Where environmental taxes meet these tests, the Government will consider introducing them.

126. In Waste Strategy 2000 the Government set out its vision for the future of waste management. This included a number of instruments with which to achieve this, including the landfill tax and a system of tradable landfill permits for waste disposal authorities. The Government is also introducing a new aggregates levy in April 2002 which will encourage recycling of construction and demolition waste.

Recommendation II

127. We are concerned that the Waste and Resources Action Programme could fail due to inadequate resources or lack of persuasive powers. The Government must monitor the performance of WRAP and step in if the organisation is struggling to reach its objectives. We also suggest that our successor Committee conduct an inquiry into the work of WRAP during the next Parliament. Further, setting up WRAP should not be seen by the Government as solving the problem of markets and any proposals emanating from WRAP which require Government action must not simply be sidelined (paragraph 166).

128. The Committee's hearings came at a time when WRAP was in the very early process of consulting on its business plan and did not therefore have firm ideas about its priorities or activities. Since the Select Committee hearing the Government has announced another £10 million of funding for WRAP, bringing total funding to over £40 million over WRAP's first three years. WRAP has also developed a detailed business plan, including actions and targets which have been agreed with ministers and the devolved administrations. This will provide a detailed basis for our ongoing monitoring of WRAP's progress towards its objectives.

129. The Government believes that WRAP has staff of high quality and has made a very good start in delivering its programme. It has already been able to announce plans to deliver a further 300,000 tonnes per year of capacity to recycle newsprint. This step will make a major difference to the ability of local authorities to meet their statutory targets for recycling and composting of household waste and will underpin the Government's voluntary agreement with the Newspaper Publisher's Association on the recycled content of their publications.

Recommendation JJ

130. The Government's plans to 'green' procurement practices are woefully inadequate. We urge the Government to press ahead with a more ambitious and rapid programme of greening its procurement practices. Buying recycled paper is a simple first step: if Government is to set other businesses an example and help provide stable markets for recycled materials, it will need to be dramatically more ambitious than is currently planned. We suggest that Government take the Environment Agency's procurement practices as a starting point from which to work. A web­site should be established so that central and local Government, along with the various agencies can share information on greening procurement practices (paragraph 170).

131. The Environment Agency have taken a robust approach to greening procurement as explained in their evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee on 4 May 1999 for their sixth report on the greening government initiative 1999. Green Ministers are working to change the culture within every Government body so that continuous improvement in environmental performance and the drive towards sustainable development become firmly established as core business aims.

132. There is a website which provides guidance and advice on best practice over a range of activities for greening government, including procurement ( The Government is also looking into the feasibility of a new Internet­based product information service, as recommended by the Advisory Committee on Consumer Products and the Environment (ACCPE). The service would offer a wide range of advice and product information to help both professional purchasers and individual consumers take environmental issues into account when making purchases.

133. The declaration in the Waste Strategy 2000 that Government will "pilot arrangements for a scheme under which environmental policy will require public procurement of certain recycled products, initially paper goods" provides an effective means of putting policy into practice. There is now a central contract for supplying all government departments and agencies with recycled copier paper that complements one established last year for supplying Government bodies with recycled paper for printed publications. The aims are to increase demand for recycled products; raise awareness of recycled alternatives; and send a strong signal that they can be of satisfactory quality and provide greater security in markets where suppliers wish to invest in new reprocessing capacity, re­manufacture or production of goods with a recycled content. If successful, the Government will consider how to move to a broader scheme for the obligatory purchasing of designated recycled goods, within the overall aim of achieving value for money.

134. The Government has also set itself targets for waste ­ in the current year, departments aim to recover a minimum of 40% of total office waste, with at least 25% of that recovery coming from recycling or composting. The Government, however, recognises that there is still scope to do more in relation to green procurement and is continuing to take steps to improve its environmental performance in all aspects of its work. It has set up a cross­Government group to identify ways to promote sustainable development through Government procurement, which will report in 2002.

Players: Environment Agency

Recommendation KK

135. We recommend that the Environment Agency work with the Department of Health to produce an information pack on the health risks which can be associated with waste management facilities. It is vital that the Agency work with the public to ensure that they are enabled to make informed contributions to the debate about waste management facilities. The costs or charges which are made for this information should be low enough to ensure that there is no impediment to a full debate taking place (paragraph 174).

136. The Government welcomes and supports the Committee's recommendation that the Environment Agency should work with the Department of Health to produce an information pack for waste management activities, including collection and transport. The Environment Agency is already exploring how best to provide information on emissions and dispersion of pollutants in the environment in conjunction with the Department of Health and DEFRA. The Agency has commissioned research from a group of leading independent experts on the possible effects of a range of pollutants from incineration, and will publish this report when it has been completed. The Agency has also instigated research into risk communication and health impact assessments, and will continue to update our knowledge of incineration techniques. No waste management option, including recycling and composting, is entirely without risk to the environment and health. DEFRA will host in the spring a scientific seminar to identify waste management options where further research on health effects is required.

Recommendation LL

137. Fly­tipping continues to be a problem and it is clear that better enforcement and greater punishment are required. To ensure that perpetrators are caught, we recommend that the Government fund the Environment Agency's proposal for an Environmental Crime Unit. So that a true deterrent is offered, we also urge magistrates to make full use of their powers to fine and, where necessary, to pass cases to the Crown Court (paragraph 176).

138. Fly­tipping is a criminal offence and the penalties are potentially severe. In a Magistrates Court the maximum penalty is imprisonment for 6 months and/or a fine of £20,000. If the case is heard in a Crown Court the maximum penalty is an unlimited fine and/or two years in prison, increasing to five years in prison if the offence involves Special Waste. However, magistrates are independent of the Government. DEFRA have discussed the issue of environmental crime with the Magistrates' Association. In September 2000 they issued sentencing guidelines on environmental offences, including fly­tipping. This states that such offences are serious, and asks magistrates to consider whether to pass cases to the Crown Court. The Association issued more detailed guidelines in May of this year.

139. The Government agrees that action to reduce fly­tipping is important, and looks to the Environment Agency to take appropriate steps in this area. The Agency has already established an Environmental Crime Unit and, in discussing the Agency's plans for 2002/03, we have agreed that the Agency should increase, in general terms, the amount it allocates to this unit. It is, however, for the Agency to decide how to apportion precisely the resources provided by Government for its waste functions (currently around £32m of grant­in­aid a year), so that these resources deliver the best overall results.

Recommendation MM

140. The Environment Agency must crack down on illegal avoidance of the landfill tax. On average, an exempt site will currently be inspected every ten years. Such a low frequency will do little to deter those aiming to cheat the system. We recommend that exempt sites be visited at least once every year and on any occasion when a complaint is made. We expect the Government to make available the resources necessary to enable the Agency to do this (paragraph 179).

141. The Environment Agency has a duty to carry out "appropriate periodic inspections" of sites that are exempt from waste management licensing and currently receives grant­in­aid to enable it to fulfil this duty. However, as stated earlier (paras 61­62 above), the Government will shortly be publishing a consultation paper on the revision of some licensing exemptions, which will include proposals to tighten the exemptions to prevent "sham recovery"; to set minimum inspection frequencies by the Environment Agency; and to introduce charges to enable the Agency to recover inspection costs.

Recommendation NN

142. From the content of the Waste Strategy 2000, it is clear that the Environment Agency is still failing to take a convincing and persuasive approach to influencing environmental strategy. Although we note some recent improvement in the Agency's performance, it is vital that it become a champion for the environment and sustainable development. It must aim to persuade Government of the merits of adopting a more ambitious Waste Strategy which is based around the pursuit of sustainable waste management (paragraph 182).

143. The Agency is, amongst other things, the Government's expert and professional advisor on the development and implementation of Government environment policy and strategy, and plays an important role in contributing to the achievement of sustainable development. We hope shortly to publish a consultation draft of revised statutory guidance to the Agency on its objectives and its contribution to sustainable development.

Players: Local Authorities

Recommendation OO

144. We urge local authorities to pursue the greening of procurement policies through the application of environmental principles via the 'Best Value' initiative (paragraph 185).

145. The Government agrees with the Committee that local authorities need to adopt green procurement policies. Government green procurement practices will lead the way for local authorities and to this end we have set up a website on greening Government at ( We have also met with various groups who encourage this practice e.g. RECOUP who set up roadshows to bring producers of recycled plastic goods and local authorities together. We will consider with other government departments what more can be done, including what contribution the Best Value framework can make. The challenge will be to identify a simple and understandable performance indicator that properly captures green procurement policies at a time when Government is being encouraged to rationalise and reduce the number of centrally determined indicators. The Government would expect local authorities to consider the value of determining their own local indicators for green procurement.

Recommendation PP

146. Measures must be taken to ensure greater co­operation between Waste Collection Authorities and Waste Disposal Authorities. Although the Government has now issued guidance for the drawing up of statutory Municipal Waste Management Strategies, we are concerned that these should be prepared and agreed as quickly as possible. If these strategies do not prove to be successful, the Government should give consideration to the use of single waste management authorities with responsibility for both collection and disposal (paragraph 189).

147. Guidance on the Waste Strategy 2000 was issued in March 2001 and made clear the Government's intention to make Municipal Waste Management Strategies mandatory in due course. We have also proposed that some of the £140 million of additional funding we are putting into waste minimisation and recycling over the next two years should be focused on partnership proposals. It is too soon to assess the position across the country but a number of good quality strategies are coming forward. We are confident that the Strategies will provide an effective tool in encouraging the authorities to work together between tiers and that many authorities will see the clear benefit of joint working. Furthermore, the Government expects county and district councils to consider the value of joint Best Value Reviews of integrated waste management so that the options of greater co­operation and joint working can be properly examined.

Recommendation QQ

148. With an open and courageous approach to consulting on waste management, waste planning could become less adversarial. Unless this process is started soon, many authorities will risk missing their 2003 targets (paragraph 195).

149. The Government encourages the public to become more involved in the planning process, and waste management operators and local authorities to involve the public at a formative stage in development plan preparation and on specific proposals. In a plan­led system, the aim is for local people to participate actively, especially at the important early stages of development plan preparation, so they can be fully involved in decisions about the pattern of development in their areas. Consultation with the general public and other interested bodies on development plans and planning applications helps waste planning authorities to secure a degree of consensus over the development of waste management facilities in their area and will help authorities to meet their respective waste management targets. DETR (as was) published "Guidance on Enhancing Public Participation" in 1998 and the Planning Green Paper, published on the 12th of December 2001, includes greater community participation in the planning system as one of its key objectives.

Recommendation RR

150. We are concerned that the role of Regional Technical Advisory Bodies (RTABs) will be to aid the development of large­scale landfill and incineration sites. The RTABs should, instead, focus on the need for new facilities for options further up the hierarchy, such as re­processing capacity for particular materials. We believe that the RTABs will be better able to fulfil this role if they have a broader membership which includes representation from the local community and are seen to be clearly part of Regional Chambers, which is already happening in some areas. This would also help to ensure that they do not fall into the trap of trying to impose their 'expert' point of view upon local people. The regionalisation of waste management decisions should not result in the loss of community ownership of such decisions (paragraph 198).

151. Planning Policy Guidance Note 10 "Planning and Waste Management" gives guidance on the role and responsibilities of Regional Technical Advisory Bodies (RTABs) on waste. Membership of RTABs is determined by the Regional Planning Body but is broad based, usually with a core­membership being drawn from waste planning authorities, different sectors of the waste management industry, the Environment Agency and Government Offices.

152. The RTAB's role is to advise the Regional Planning Body on factual matters and technical options to inform the preparation of the waste elements of regional planning guidance. But it is not their function to impose decisions ­ it is the responsibility of the Regional Planning Bodies to draw up the draft waste guidance, which is then subject to public consultation and scrutiny at the public examination into regional planning guidance. So, whereas RTABs should take account of the views of voluntary environmental and local community interests in the development of regional waste management options, the RTAB should concentrate on technical issues. There is ample opportunity for the wider community to participate, through the consultation process.

Players: Business

Recommendation TT

153. We have recommended radical changes to the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme. In advance of these changes, we urge the waste management industry to make positive use of their control of the landfill tax credits by shifting their use from general community­based projects towards those which further the aims of sustainable waste management. This should be the first step in this industry rising to the challenge of a dramatically different waste policy agenda (paragraph 202).

154. The government has now released a challenge to the waste industry, in the form of indicative guidelines. These are to increase spend on sustainable waste management projects to 65% of the credits available through the scheme with at least a third of this to be spent on recycling projects. These reflect the Government's priority of using the scheme to promote more sustainable waste management.

Recommendation UU

155. 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 (paragraph 204).

156. Producers of direct mail are increasingly seeking to target their audiences. However, people can have their names removed from the mailing lists that direct sales companies (and others) use to distribute their literature by contacting the Mailing Preference Service at the following address:

Freepost 22

London W1E 7EZ

Telephone: 0345 034 599

157. People can also write directly to their bank or other companies that send them unsolicited mail, to request that they are taken off mailing lists or that excess promotional material is not included with their statements. The Government is currently discussing the scope for further action through a voluntary agreement with the direct mail industry.

Recommendation VV

158. 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 waste performance (paragraph 206).

159. The Government is continuing to encourage companies to report on their environmental performance. Earlier this year specific guidelines for company reporting on waste were issued which have been well received. In November this year DEFRA (following work by DETR and in consultation with DTI ) published their General Guidelines on Company Environmental Reporting. these explain how to produce a good quality basic report, and contain a set of indicators to report against. The guidelines are aimed at companies new to reporting ­ and provide a stepping stone to best practice.

160. In the UK the move towards reporting is accelerating among large companies. Of the FTSE top 100 firms 56 currently publish an environmental report and 12 more of the top 100 have indicated that they will report in the future. Reporting, however, is much less common among the next 250 FTSE listed companies ­ only 23 currently report.

161. The final report of the Company Law Review recommends certain reporting requirements, including environmental disclosures. The Government will be considering these recommendations in the coming year.

Players: The Community Sector

Recommendation WW

162. The Community Sector must be encouraged to take a greater share of the waste management business:

163. The Government's guidance on Municipal Waste Management Strategies urges local authorities to work in partnership with others involved with waste management including community groups. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has also announced that £159 million would be available for a programme of environmental renewal and community regeneration through the next round of New Opportunities Fund. This will include £50 million across the UK for community sector waste reuse, recycling and composting.

Players: The Public

Recommendation XX

164. At present the public are ill­informed and misled about what happens to their waste. If we are to be successful in moving waste from the bottom to the top of the hierarchy, a major public programme is required to educate, persuade and involve the public in waste management issues. If such a campaign is to be successful, the public must be convinced that Government and business are also working to change things (paragraph 213).

165. The 'are you doing your bit?' publicity campaign (£18 million from 1998­2000) was launched by the Deputy Prime Minister in 1998. The campaign has two aims: to educate and motivate individuals to take action that will help protect the environment and to reinforce and complement the environmental messages and activities of campaign partners. The programme focuses on reducing waste, using energy efficiently, conserving water and travelling wisely.

166. Previous years' promotions used TV adverts featuring Mark Lamarr and other celebrities, a campaign roadshow, PR and media promotions, website and the waste website . However, in 2001, £5 million of campaign funds were re­directed to assist the Rural Task Force and as a result campaign activity ran at a low level and primarily focused on the interactive campaign roadshow which toured 22 locations around England.

167. The role of the 'are you doing your bit' campaign is being reviewed following the formation of DEFRA and in the light of the new Department's aims and objectives and DEFRA's lead role across Government in promoting sustainable development.

168. The Government also supports the National Waste Awareness Initiative (NWAI) which aims to encourage and maintain positive changes in the public awareness, attitudes and, very importantly, behaviour.

Our Vision

Recommendation YY

169. We need stronger leadership from Government on waste. Central Government, local Government and business must examine their attitudes and policies on waste. It is not good enough to shuffle along in a laggardly fashion behind European Union Directives. There are sufficient examples from here and abroad which show what can be done and how to do it. Nothing will change until everyone in waste starts to believe that things can be changed. We, and many others, believe they can. It is time for the rest to join us (paragraph 216).

170. The Government has held a waste summit to bring together the key players in delivering greater sustainability in waste management and has announced a PIU study into the waste strategy. This is the start of a process which should lead to an even clearer vision of how the objective of greater sustainable waste management can be achieved.

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