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

Letter from Biffa Waste Services Ltd to the Department of Trade & Industry 23 August 2001


  Thanks for the opportunity to support the round-table session on 21 August. Whilst the issues are fresh in my mind I thought you might find the following key points from a Biffa perspective of use. I will circulate this electronically to all other attendees and interested parties once you confirm a complete listing.

    —  There is no shortage of interest in the market place in terms of preparedness to invest in the necessary collection and reprocessing infrastructure. Biffa is keen to undertake such investment as part of a far wider forward strategy to develop strategically located warehouses and reprocessing centres for a wide range of materials in the waste stream which will require more specialist approaches in coming years and decades. These include electrical and electronic equipment as well as fluorescent lamps, hazardous waste streams, insecticides, pesticides and automotive equipment alongside the more mundane non hazardous materials such as packaging and aggregates.

    —  Pre-requisites for such investment are:

      (a)  Clear undertakings from the Environment Agency, DEFRA and other relevant parties with regard to the specification of reprocessing equipment. In the absence of such assurances, companies like us are not in a position to tender and install equipment which may subsequently be confirmed as non compliant. Even when plant specifications are agreed by Government it is important that tolerance standards are not too wide—otherwise operators of less efficient plants can generally operate to a lower cost base which will then prejudice operators of state of the art equipment.

      (b)  There must be a clear definition of who pays and where the market is located. Given the tight time constraints I have already written to a range of potential customers in the public and private sector but they are unlikely to come to a decision until central government makes its mind up with regard to funding methodology. The Annex outlines some of the current possibilities which might operate in isolation or combination.

      (c)  There need to be clear assurances from DEFRA, Environment Agency and others with regard to a consistent regulatory regime—particularly in respect of accelerated planning and licensing conditions coupled to absolute guarantees on enforcement against those continuing to handle fridges via non compliant routes (ie those operating today).

  Those with an interest in this area seek assurances on some or all of the above three aspects. Given the time constraints I suggest that the German specification for plant operation be adopted without question—they have much greater experience and there is no opportunity for a cumbersome British reinvention of the wheel.

  The next priority is to decide on the appropriate funding mechanism and establish a process were pricing transparency is achieved—particularly in relation to operational differences in efficiency between the different branded technologies. In the short term it is likely that these costs will land on the public purse but I for one would be more than happy to support DEFRA/DTI discussions with the Treasury and/or Office of Fair Trading.

  Some months ago we have already submitted operating standards to the Agency for type approval but, thus far, I have yet to receive a response.

  I trust this clarifies matters from our perspective—please let me know if I can be of further assistance. Needless to say I look forward to confirmation of the next stages.

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