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

Fridge Logistics—a note by M B Recycling Ltd 10 September 2001

  As we review the situation with regard to Ozone Depleting Substances we have to recognise that the sands of time are running out. We are advised by both DEFRA and the DTI that the European Legislation relating to ODS emanating from refrigerators will become effective from 1 January 2002. That means that we have currently got 3½ months left to put in place a means of meeting that legislation.

  1.  The correspondence that has been circulating in email form indicates a desire to maintain the current collection system. Nearly all the local authorities rely upon this system for the disposal of their refrigerators. It would be very difficult to replace such a collection process in the time available. We must also recognise that the time left does not allow the procurement of the relevant machinery for effecting the disposal; and were clear decisions to be taken today, it would be of the order of nine months before the first of those shredding machines that meet the criteria that are likely to be required will be available. In the meantime, large numbers of redundant refrigerators will be accumulating in the hands of either the local authorities or the collectors of these machines.

  2.  Here, however, we run into another difficulty. Many of them are reported to be considering their positions and certainly they would not want to be left with returning them to the civic amenity sites.

  3.  The government have indicated through the discussions that we have had at the DEFRA meeting at the DTI Conference Centre a fortnight ago, that the government will not defer the implementation of this scheme nor will they risk infraction proceedings from the European Union. Therefore we must prepare for rack and stack of these refrigerators until such time as the machines can be put in place to process them and at the same time we must give assurances to the retailers, who have asked quite clearly for confirmation as to the way forward, that it would be preferred to keep the current collection process, which involves the retail sector as well as the civic amenity sites, to proceed in a constant and forecastable way. If this does not happen, within the next two or three weeks we may see the announcement of the cessation of many of the current collecting processes and to put fresh contracts and processes in place such as to meet the onrush of refrigerators which will have no home to go to, becomes a very serious proposition.

  It has been stated by many of the interested parties present at meetings that they have no intention of making any investment until all matters are clarified. Time is passing and it would appear that the decisions which are sought are in essence already before us, only requiring final confirmation.

  1.  Will the government confirm their attitude to the EU Legislation in writing?

  2.  Will they identify sites which can be used for rack and stack or for open air storage that satisfies the geographic locations and their requirements?

  3.  Can those who wish to install machines look for co-operation in identifying the standards which are to be achieved? It has been widely suggested that these should be of the highest level and I would certainly urge that this be ratified. 98 per cent extraction has been mentioned by Peter Jones and this seems to me to be a standard which could be achieved by several different makes of machine, whilst at the same time avoiding us installing sub standard machinery which will fail to meet the upcoming requirements which will be added to with the installation of the WEEE Directive. It would be fallacious for us to invest in capital equipment that will be obsolete within three years. The Prime Minister has indicated his desire that we should be leaders in Europe, and that can only be achieved if we install the best availablel equipment.

  In summary, therefore, we have to move now and it requires decisions. A further meeting which is forecast for 28 September will of itself be helpful but unless it arrives at some concrete decisions which can be implemented in short order, the drift which currently prevails will continue.

  For example, a recent survey of 30 or more local and county councils indicated that with the exception of four, virtually no provision was being made or examined in any sector, and telephone calls by the writer to certain large city councils indicate that many of them are settled in the belief that because they have contracts for the disposal of their refrigerators in the current format that they will be able to let that responsibility devolve onto the collector. I very much suspect that most of those contracts will have force majeure clauses in them and that a certain amount of very radical eye opening will take place once clarification is made to the local authorities—and here I must urge that clarification takes place forthwith. There is a bland assumption on the part of the local authorities that nothing is going to change and I believe that that is extremely dangerous from the point of view of forward planning.

  In writing this note, therefore, may I applaud the discussion which has been going on via email but at the same time urge that decisions now need to be made with a degree of priority which is currently not in evidence.

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