Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Correspondence from Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to Dixons Group plc, 7 September 2001


  Thank you for your letter of 10 August 2001, to Michael Meacher, seeking guidance on the review of the Special Waste Regulations and the likely impact of the EC Regulation on ozone depleting substances on your take-back scheme for large white goods. Please accept my apologies for the delay in our response. However, we are actively working on these issues at the current time and I wanted to provide you with as full a response as possible.

Review of the Special Waste Regulations

  As from 1 January 2002, waste electrical appliances containing hazardous components, including CFCs and HCFCs will be added to the European Hazardous Waste List. This list defines the scope of the Hazardous Waste Directive (91/689/EEC), which is transposed in Great Britain by the Special Waste Regulations 1996. We are currently in the process of reviewing the Special Waste Regulations with the aim of improving environmental protection, while minimising the administrative burden. We shall be consulting further on this review shortly and revised legislation for hazardous waste is expected to come into force in Spring 2002. The new Hazardous Waste List will come into effect in the UK at the same time as these regulations.

  As a result of infraction proceedings that have been brought against the UK by the European Commission, we are also committed to reviewing the existing waste management licensing exemptions insofar as they relate to hazardous waste. The storage of returned goods that are waste, including special waste, is subject to an exemption from the waste management licensing regulations (exemption number 28).

  Member States may provide licensing exemptions for establishments or undertakings which recover hazardous waste, as long as they adopt general rules listing the type and quantities of waste and lay down specific requirements for carrying out the recovery operation. Under Article 3(4) of the HWD Member States are obliged to inform the Commission of any intention to use such exemptions and must obtain the agreement of Member States.

  We aim to formally notify the Commission of various hazardous waste exemptions, including some relating to newly hazardous waste, early in 2002. A consultation paper setting out these exemptions in draft will be issued this autumn. We are currently considering the handling of exemption 28. However, we shall need to satisfy the Commission that the safeguards provided by the exemption are adequate. In order to do this, we may need to redraft the exemption rather more narrowly. In doing so, we shall, of course, bear in mind the desirability of preserving existing take-back arrangements in the run up to implementation of the WEEE Directive.

  In June the Commission confirmed that Article 16(2) of the EC Regulation 2037/2000 on substances that deplete the ozone layer does apply to ODS in insulation foams. DEFRA and DTI recently met with a range of potential investors, retailers and other interested parties to consider these issues and to move towards a workable solution. We are keen to ensure that stakeholders are kept informed of our progress with these issues. In view of this, we shall be arranging a further meeting, through the British Retail Consortium, to discuss the issues surrounding exemption 28.

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