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

Correspondence from Dixons Group plc to the Minister for Local Government and the Regions, 19 October 2001

  I am writing to draw your attention to the highly damaging effect of new regulations governing the storage and disposal of white goods on local authorities' waste reduction strategies.

  As I am sure you are aware, from January 2002 the government intends to implement phase two of the EC Regulation 2037/2000 governing the disposal of products containing CFCs.

  Phase two requires the removal of CFCs from the foam insulation in the walls and doors of fridges. At present there are no extraction facilities to remove CFCs from foam in the UK and it is unlikely that such facilities could gain necessary planning and regulatory approvals and be built here in under a year.

  As a result most contractors have given us notice that they will cease to collect all end of life white goods appliances from us from 30 November 2001.

  At present Dixons Group collects 750,000 end of life white goods appliances, fridges, freezers, cookers and washing machines, from people's homes each year at no cost to the consumer. Were we to cease this collection service consumers would have to rely on local authorities who have a statutory obligation to collect or receive such domestic waste.

  The Local Government Association and many of their members have confirmed to us that withdrawal of retail collection services would create a major burden for local authorities, both in terms of having to offer a replacement collection from homes and the likely increased incidence of fly-tipping with consequent environmental problems. We are working with DTI, DEFRA and Environment Agency officials as part of the fridge destruction group but remain concerned that the impact of this directive on local authorities has not been fully appreciated.

  I understand that DEFRA are seeking to make short-term provision for local authorities to cope with this additional demand which could be generated as early as November 2001. I would urge you to assist local authorities in ensuring that a cost-free disposal route is maintained by enabling local authorities to take these products from retail collection systems without charge.

  We are anxious to ensure that any new system set in place to manage the collection of fridges and payment of sub-contractors minimises bureaucracy and does not create incentives for fly-tipping.

  We would be happy to brief you further on this issue.

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