TIMETABLE OF PRINCIPAL EVENTS RELATING TO
DETR consults with stakeholders on draft Regulation.
DETR lays Explanatory Memorandum to the draft Regulation before Parliament.
Austrian Presidency of the EU amends draft Regulation.
Draft Regulation Cleared by Select Committee on European Legislation.
Environment Council of the European Union reaches political agreement on the draft Regulation.
Issue of foam raised in EC Regulation 3093/94 Management Committee.
Common position on draft Regulation reached by Environment Council of the European Union.
Regulation adopted by European Parliament and Environment Council.
Biffa, writes to DTI about new recycling equipment.
Article 11 of the Regulation comes into force.
Dixons writes to Environment Minister expressing concerns.
Dixons writes to DETR officials expressing concerns.
Biffa writes to Environment Agency about investment in recycling equipment.
EC Regulation 2037/2000 Management Committee clarifies position on CFC bearing foam to UK satisfaction.
DEFRA informs local authorities of requirements of the Regulation.
DEFRA announces £6 million for storage costs incurred by local authorities.
Article 16 of the Regulation comes into force.
First mobile fridge recycling plant operates in UK.
Environment Minister tells Select Committee that the cost of processing the backlog of fridges might be £40 million.
4. We decided to appoint a Sub-committee to undertake an inquiry
into the issues relating to the disposal of refrigerators,
and announced our inquiry in a press notice issued on 7 February
2002. The terms of reference
for the inquiry were:
5. In response to our invitation to submit written evidence we
received fourteen written memoranda. In addition, we held three
oral evidence sessions in March and April 2002, hearing from representatives
of the Local Government Association and the Dixons Group plc,
witnesses from Biffa Waste Services Ltd and the Directorate General,
Environment of the European Commission, and the Minister for the
Environment, Rt Hon Michael Meacher MP, and officials from the
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
We also discussed the matter with UKRep officials and representatives
of the European Commission during a visit to Brussels in February.
We wish to thank all those who gave evidence, either orally or
in writing, or otherwise assisted us in our inquiry.
18. In November 1998, the Austrian Presidency proposed an amendment
to this Article. In December 1998, the Presidency circulated a
further revised text of the same Article. This was intended to
clarify and expedite implementation. We note, however, that Austria
and several other European States have not yet implemented the
Regulation in full.
19. The effect of the November 1998 amendment would have been
to make recovery of controlled substances from the specified equipment
mandatory, rather than "if practicable", but it excluded
domestic refrigeration, and removed the specific reference to
rigid foams. The effect of the further December 1998 amendment
was to introduce mandatory recovery from domestic refrigeration
equipment with effect from 1 January 2002, but still with no specific
reference to foams.
20. It is not surprising that these changes to the text of the
regulation should have caused some confusion. In fact the written
memorandum from DEFRA states: "The issue of removal of CFCs
from insulating foam in fridges was not raised until January 1999,
after Ministers had reached political agreement, because of lack
of clarity caused by the changes."
The fact remains that the purpose of the Regulation was to
minimise ozone depleting substances, and since the foams concerned
contained more of these than the CFC coolants in fridges, recovery
was desirable, making it very surprising that the Commission
did not immediately clarify this issue and indicate at that stage
its view that removal of foam containing CFCs should be mandatory.
21. As is usual a Management Committee was established, comprising
officials from the European Commission and from member states.
The purpose of the Management Committee was to discuss the interpretation
of the Regulation.
22. More than one Government department in the United Kingdom
was involved in the process of drawing up and then interpreting
the Regulation. Officials from the former Department of the Environment,
Transport and the Regions (DETR) took lead responsibility for
negotiations on the draft Regulation, "in consultation with
officials from the Department of Trade and Industry (impacts on
business and trade issues), HM Customs and Excise (import and
export), the Ministry of Defence (phasing out of controlled substances
used in military equipment and installations), the Home Office
(specialised uses by the police), Department of Health (use of
CFCs in medical devices), and the former Ministry of Agriculture,
Fisheries and Food (supply and use of methyl bromide)".
23. At meetings of the Management Committee, we were told, "DEFRA
used to take the lead; sometimes there would be some consultation
with the Department of Trade and Industry, sometimes the Department
of Trade and Industry would make a comment to the Committee about
a particular area".
Despite the consultations between Government departments mentioned,
we were not aware that representatives of HM Customs and Excise
attended Management Committee meetings, which might account for
the fact that at the meeting of 25 October 2000, the Department
of Trade and Industry and DEFRA made it known that they had previously
been unaware of the export trade of between 1 and 1.5 million
domestic refrigerators per year from the UK.
We therefore find it surprising that Customs and Excise which
had already been warning exporters that the export trade would
be stopped had neither told other departments of this nor indicated
the scale of the trade lost, something of which the Department
of Trade and Industry should also have been well aware. We are
surprised that such a substantial export business could be so
casually treated by DTI and Customs and Excise who had not passed
on the information.
United Kingdom officials apparently assumed that insulating foam
in refrigerators came under Article 16(3). The question to which
they sought a definitive answer was whether the recovery of foam
from refrigerators was considered 'practicable' by EC officials
and by other member states.
26. Witnesses took different views of the way in which United
Kingdom officials acted. Dr Tom Batchelor, of the Climate Change
Unit at the European Commission, expressed his surprise at the
attitude of the UK officials, saying that previously "the
negotiation team in DEFRA has always been very concerned with
minimising any releases to the atmosphere. The track that was
taken in these arguments here [over Article 16], I would have
to admit, was not consistent with the effort that has been put
in in the past."
Mr Peter Jones, of Biffa Waste Services Limited, told us that
in his view the Government had lost sight of its own broad environmental
strategy to reduce emissions, and rather than embracing the spirit
of the Regulation it had instead focussed too closely on avoiding
the burden of implementing its details. He said that "my
perception is that we suffered from the wood for the trees syndrome...[UK
officials] were in the undergrowth, focussed on the fact that
they were trying to work out how they were going to escape from
what they saw as an onerous condition that they had agreed to
In the event, Biffa Waste Services Limited elected not to invest
in the specialist equipment necessary for recycling fridges.
27. In his evidence to us it was put to Mr Meacher that having
been surprised by the realisation of the extent of the Regulation,
the Government had then sought to delay its implementation: he
replied that "to say that we were simply playing for time,
engaging in semantics, I simply do not accept".
28. Instead, Mr Meacher explained, the Government was genuinely
seeking clarification of the 'if practicable' caveat in Article
16(3). He argued that
"our view of 'if practicable' was based on three criteria.
Firstly the availability of the relevant technologies in the UK;
secondly the economic feasibility of introducing such technologies
if they were in use elsewhere; and thirdly the concept of proportionality.
In other words we did believe that the question of cost versus
benefit was relevant here".
He also said that he accepted that "there is significant
chlorine loading in the foam and therefore it is justified so
long as it is practical. Now it is technically extremely
29. Some other member states did consider that recovery of foam
was practicable. Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Austria all had
the necessary recycling equipment in place some years ago, and
said as much at the meeting of the Management Committee on 4 October
2000. However, that
left a majority of European Union states which did not have the
equipment, making it important that they should know well in advance
what provisions needed to be made. Dr Batchelor told the Sub-committee
that in the last three years 200,000 refrigerators per annum had
been recycled in Austria and Denmark, 300,000 in Sweden and more
than 2 million refrigerators per year had been recycled annually
in Germany. When
questioned whether this proved that proper recovery of foam obviously
was practicable, Mr Meacher told us that "the question then
has to be decided what is meant by 'if practicable'. It might
be a question of if that technology exists in another country
fine, then it is practicable anywhere, or it might be, yes, of
course it is practicable because it exists elsewhere, but we have
to look at the practicalities of investing in our own country
and the timescales which apply to that".
30. Concern about the cost of such investments appear to have
been the main reasons for the unwillingness of United Kingdom
officials to accept that Regulation 2037/2000 would apply to CFC
and HCFC bearing foam. Despite the clear views of some other Member
States on the question of practicability, and their inability
to extract what they considered to be a definitive answer from
the Commission, officials did not make contingency plans for the
eventuality that the Regulation would apply to the foam of fridges
from 1 January 2002. Mr Meacher told the Sub-committee "We
could have put in place, I suppose, a domestic regulation even
in the face of the continuing confusion and uncertainty from the
EU side and if we were trying to do all that, all I can say is
I think there would have been great resistance within Government
to forcing industry to do something which they were not required
to do at considerable expense as a unilateral burden that trendy
Mr Meacher in DEFRA or DETR was imposing on the industry when
they did not have to".
The lack of investment in new machinery reflected a lack of clarity
about the Regulation, and about who was to pay for the disposal
of refrigerators. This was a business opportunity that was missed.
31. In any event, it eventually became clear that the continuing
debate about whether foam recovery was 'practicable' under the
terms of Article 16(3) was likely to prove redundant: in fact
it increasingly seemed that insulating foam fell under Article
16(2), which makes no reference to the practicality of its recovery.
Mr Meacher conceded that even in early 2000 officials had been
given legal advice that "recovery might come at 16(2)".
He said that officials "informed the industry that it was
likely that the outcome would be that recovery facilities would
be required.....their response to us was to continue to press
us strongly for certainty".
Certainty came in June 2001, when it was belatedly made clear
that Article 16(2) applies to the insulating foam. All of the
debate about the phrase 'if practicable' was proved to be a waste
of time. What is more, there was no mechanism by which the implementation
of the Regulation could be delayed.
SELECTION OF FORTHCOMING EU LEGISLATION
Type of measure
State of play
Benzene & CO Limit Values & Air Quality
Forms part of a package of measures designed to combat problems of air pollution. Gives requirements for assessment of concentrations and provides for the dissemination of information about pollutants.
Published in OJ 13/12/00, (L313), ref. 2000/69/EC. MSs must comply with the provisions of this directive not later than 31 December 2002.
Volatile Organic Compound Emissions
To prevent or reduce direct & indirect effects of emissions of VOCs into the environment, mainly into air, by various measures & procedures.
Published in OJ 29/03/99, (L85), ref.: 99/13/EC. MSs must implement the Directive by April 2001. Installations must also be registered or authorised by 31/10/07 to enable MSs to report on implementation.
Implementation of European Pollutant Emission Register
States that MSs must report to the Cion on emissions from all individual facilities with one or more of the activities listed in Annex 1 to the IPPC Directive.
Published in OJ on 28/07/00, (L192), ref:2000/479/EC. The first report must be presented by MSs in June 2003 & should be submitted by means of electronic data transfer.
Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer
To bring EU law on ozone-depleting substances in line with Montreal Protocol.
Published in OJ 29/09/01, (L244), ref.: 2000/2037. To enter into force on the day following that of its publication in the OJ & shall apply from 01/10/00.
National Emissions Ceilings Directive
Proposes ceilings for emissions of SO2, NOx, VOCs and NH3 to be reached by 2010
Published in OJ L309 (ref. 2001/81/EC). Enters into force on date of publication. Member States must transpose this Directive into national law before 27 November 2002.
Large Combustion Plants
Revision of Directive
To tighten emission limits on existing parameters and prescribe new limits for NOx, SO2 and dust from new combustion plants.
Published in OJ L309 (ref. 2001/80/EC). Enters into force on the day of its publication and repeals Directive 88/609/EEC with effect from 27 November 2002. MSs must transpose this Directive before that date.
Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of certain plans & programmes
To provide for a high level of protection of the environment and to contribute to the integration of environmental considerations into the preparation and adoption of plans and programmes with a view to promoting sustainable development by ensuring that, in accordance with this Directive, an environmental assessment is carried out of certain plans and programmes which are likely to have significant effects on the environment.
Published in OJ on 21 July 2001, (L197), ref.: 2001/42/EC. MSs must bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this Directive before 21 July 2004.
Minimum Criteria for Environmental Inspections
Provides for minimum criteria for environmental inspections in the Member States.
Published in OJ L118 (ref. 2001/331/EC). MSs should report to the Commission on their experience of the operation of this Recommendation two years after the date of its publication in the OJ.
Heavy Metals in Packaging
To exempt glass from the limits on heavy metal content for packaging
Published in OJ 02/03/01, (L62), ref. 2001/171/EC. Entered into force on 30/06/01.
Lays down measures to prevent waste from vehicles & provides for the re-use, recycling & other forms of recovery of end-of-life vehicles of their components so as to reduce the disposal of waste, as well as the improvement in the environmental performance of all the economic operators involved in the life cycle of vehicles.
Published in OJ 21/10/00, (L269), ref. 2000/53/EC. Article 5(4), on the free delivery of complete vehicles to an authorised treatment facility, will apply with effect from 01/07/02 for vehicles put on the market as from that date; and as from 01/01/07 for vehicles put on the market before 01/07/01. MSs must implement this directive by 21/04/02.
Port Reception Facilities for Ship-Generated Waste & Cargo Residues
To reduce the discharges of ship-generated waste & cargo residues into the sea by improving the availability of port-reception facilities.
Published in OJ 28/12/00, (L332), ref.: 2000/59/EC. MSs must adopt provisions to comply with this directive before 28/12/02.
To prevent or limit as far as practicable negative effects on the environment, & resulting risk to human health, from the incineration & co-incineration of waste.
Published in OJ 28/12/00, (L332), ref:2000/76/EC. Applies to all existing plants from 28/12/05 & to new plants from 28/12/02 (date by which all MSs must comply with the Directive).
Provides for measures, procedures and guidance to prevent or reduce as a far as possible negative effects on the environment, as well as any resulting risk to human health, from the landfilling of waste during the whole life-cycle of the landfill.
Published in OJ L182 (ref. 99/31/EC). MSs are required to comply with the Directive within two years of its entry into force on 17 July 1999.
Water Framework Directive
Establishes a framework for Community action in the field of water policy.
Published in OJ L327 (ref. 2000/60/EC) and entered into force on day of publication. MSs must bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this Directive not later than 22 December 2003.
Priority Substances in the field of water policy
Establishes a list of 33 substances ranked according to their relative risk to the aquatic ecosystem as required under the WFD. Substances are classified into 3 categories: Priority hazardous substances, Priority substances to be reviewed, & Priority substances.
Published in OJ L331 (ref. 2455/2001/EC) & entered into force on the day following its publication. List is added to Directive 2000/60/EC (WFD) as Annex X.
Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment
Promotes recovery of electrical and electronic waste and to improve the environmental performance of the economic operators involved in the treatment of such waste.
Also restricts the use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment.
Public access to environmental information
Replaces Council Directive 90/313/EEC, of 7 June 1990, on the freedom of access to information on the environment
Assessment and management of environmental noise
Provides a basis for an integrated EU policy on environmental noise. Introduces measures to classify and understand the problems caused by noise, including the idea of making EU-wide 'noise maps' based on common methods and indicators.
Integrated coastal zone management
Encourages Member States to undertake a national inventory of legislation, institutions and actors involved in the planning and management of the coastal zone, and to develop a national strategy to promote integrated coastal zone management
Public participation in drawing up environmental plans & programmes
Moves towasrds the ratification of the Aarhus Convention (the UN/ECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters)
Emission of gaseous and particulate pollutants from internal combustion engines in non-road mobile machinery
Extends the scope of the current Directive on emissions from compression ignition engines to be used in non-road mobile machinery to cover small spark ignition engines as well
lays down provisions for the labelling of genetically modified organisms and traceability of food and feed products produced from GMOs
Petrol and diesel fuels
Requires zero sulphur (fewer than 10 ppm) petrol and diesel to be introduced and available in the Member States by no later than 1 January 2001. By 1 January 2011, all petrol and diesel sold will have to have fewer than 10 ppm. The Commission will review these specifications by 31 December 2006. Each Member State will be required to introduce a fuel quality monitoring system.
Establishes a scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Community
Establishes a Community regime for environmental liability with regard to the prevention and remedying of environmental damage
Establishes a common system of notification and information for exports to third countries of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)