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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120 - 126)



  120. So none of these countries actually place an obligation which says, "You must produce a certain re-cycled item from this process." They leave it to the industry to innovate to produce clean materials from whatever they have been given and simply regulate to prevent disposal of those particular items as pollutants into the landfill.
  (Mr Averill) Absolutely correct. In fact, the more we move forward along this agenda, the less we are a waste management company; we are a secondary resource company.

  121. Are there supplementary economic advantages given to you, such as tax benefits of some kind, from generating re-cycled material from hazardous waste? Are there no examples where you get a credit of some kind from generating that output?
  (Mr Averill) No, none. As you can imagine, if we take the example again of polluted soil, the actual weight of the pollutant as a percentage of the total is very small, and what it means is all of that soil can now be re-used in the economy because the pollutants have been removed, and that is exactly what happens to it. We are a very big supplier of secondary energy through electricity generated from landfill gas. We are a very big supplier of secondary fuels where we are blending otherwise hazardous wastes that are used as fuel. We are a big supplier of secondary materials from outputs of the sorts of processes that we have just described.

  122. To give an idea of the scale of the industry we might be talking about here, you have operations in the Netherlands, for example. From your experience of your scale there, what sort of size of business are we talking about which could exist in the UK and is instead being sunk into the ground?
  (Mr Averill) Simply put, at the moment, the UK waste management industry is around £4 billion a year. That is a rough guide to the size. If we are to accept these much higher environmental standards, in my opinion, it is very easy to see that we can triple that, and we can add £8 billion worth of economic activity.

  123. But would it simply transfer £8 billion of additional costs to the sectors involved, or would they be to some extent forced to innovate to find other solutions for parts of their problems? That was one of your suggestions, that they did not have to try very hard at the moment.
  (Mr Averill) Obviously the answer to the question is there is a little of each, but the environment is here. These are not jobs that can be exported to south-east Asia. Our environment is here, and if we adopt this in the same way as we have adopted health and safety legislation, in the same way as we have adopted clean air legislation, and a number of other regulatory-inspired initiatives which are really just representing the advancement of society, I believe that we can generate this £8 billion worth of economic activity, which is sustainable into the future, which is going to generate a lot of secure, long-term employment and good careers for our young people.

  124. One minor correction: academic survey has shown that the slave trade, at least in part, failed because of its economic failings as opposed to the wish of northern states to remove supposedly cheaper competitors.
  (Mr Averill) I would agree with you, although not many people would have done in anticipation. It was with the aid of hindsight.


  125. In your evidence you talk about the Technical Adaptation Committee. What is that?
  (Mr Averill) The Technical Adaptation Committee is the Committee at the Commission which is tasked with the waste acceptance criteria, and it is this Committee which is behind schedule, and lamentably so.

  126. We now know were the buck stops in that particular context. Thank you very much indeed for the patient way you have answered our questions. As I said to the Chemical Industries Association, we are right at the outset of our inquiry and I am sure there will be a lot of other points and questions we might want to come back to you on. In the light of the line of questioning you have heard from us, if there is anything else that you think would be helpful to (a) answer our questions and (b) further our inquiry, we would be delighted to hear from you. Thank you very much indeed for coming and giving your evidence to the Committee.
  (Mr Averill) Thank you for listening so patiently and, needless to say, we are here to help and if you have any further questions, we will do our very best to answer them.

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