Examination of Witnesses (Questions 240
MONDAY 1 JULY 2002
240. Finally, tell me what the LGA thinks about
the Planning Green Paper as it relates to hazardous waste. Is
there something in there that is going to help you? Is it going
to be easier to deliver these sites in future? A wish, possibly?
(Mr Fielding) Perhaps I should have stated at the
beginning that Stephen and I are waste managers are not planning
experts. Unfortunately, the LGA would normally wish to be represented
at this event by a member of the executive, but it has not been
possible today, for which they apologise. Consequently, I am probably
not best able to comment on issues of the Planning Green Paper,
being a waste practitioner not a planner.
241. Will you write to us?
(Mr Fielding) Yes.
242. Following on that important point Mr Tipping
has raised, there may be a greater need in the future for incineration,
for example. That seems to be persona non grata. Whenever
you say the word "incinerator" a vast army of people
who disagree with incineration immediately forms. What are your
views about dealing with issues like that in the future?
(Mr Fielding) Again, I think we need to draw the distinction
between the management of hazardous waste and the management of
243. But thinking of hazardous waste, what are
(Mr Fielding) High-temperature incineration is the
normally established disposal route for the most hazardous materials.
Those plants are not without their objections and issues that
come with them. I think that the process has been clearly demonstrated
as an appropriate technology, and through the IPPC permitting
system the Environment Agency will doubtless consider applications
and approve them on their merits. Whether or not we will see a
move to further incineration is probably best left to the waste
industries to comment on.
244. Perhaps when you respond in writing to
Mr Tipping's question about the planning sideand I do appreciate
that you are not an expert on thatsome words on the planning
issues that surround the establishment of and subsequent operation
of incinerators might be quite helpful to the Committee.
(Mr Fielding) Certainly.
245. You have already referred this afternoon,
I think, to the uncertainties brought about by the Government's
review of the Special Waste Regulations. There was a consultation
paper issued by the Department in the spring of last year, I think.
Could you tell us what the LGA has to say about the likely impact
on local authorities of some of the proposals in that consultation
(Mr Fielding) Perhaps I need to start by saying that
the LGA, as you are probably aware, has gone through some changes
in the last year, and I have asked the question myself as to what
response the LGA made. I was not personally involved, and I am
unable to quote from that response. What we can perhaps do is
outline to you what will be the implications for local authorities.
246. That would be helpful, so would you do
(Mr Didsbury) There are various aspects of it. One
of the things we are talking about is stopping pre-notification.
That would be probably an advantage, because where we have special
skips at waste sites, they do not necessarily fill up at a standard
rate, therefore we do not know three days in advance which skips
are going to be full. With the extension of the "special
waste" definition to other areas like fridges we looked at
gauging the likely cost, assuming that there is going to be a
cost for transfer modes, and it was somewhere between £¼
million and £½ million just on fridges alone, if they
become special waste. That is excluding the stuff we have already
paid for. In my authority we are a fairly small disposal authority.
We have two waste sites which work out at about £20,000 just
on asbestos being transferred and disposed of. This is where we
have got waste oil and batteries. As more things get included,
it is likely that a lot of the wasteWhen the waste oil
and asbestos got added into the "special waste" definition
we had to pay consignment costs, and a lot of local authorities
actually took special skips out of their local sites, because
the cost of the site licence went up from something like £400
or £500 to between £1,500 and £2,000 per site.
We have two sites, so we decided it was the best that we could
make. Some authorities have 20-plus sites and they could not do
that on all their sites because of the sheer costs alone and all
the costs of actually disposing of it. If other itemsfridges,
television setsare included, eventually these sites are
probably going to have to be charged, they are going to have to
go for the higher licence. That also means that their potential
competence needs to go up from level 3, from civic amenity sites,
to a level 4, a special waste transfer establishment. That costs
about £4,000 or £5,000 to get somebody through that
with the qualifications. Obviously a lot of that will have an
outcome on the private sector who will be running the sites on
our behalf. So there are the additional licence costs, the additional
costs of higher training for the staff. Then if you are segregating
waste out, the sites have to be bigger, and you have lots of pressure
to increase recycling levels on a continuing basis, so theoretically
you are looking for any space there is to increase recycling.
So it is even going to affect our recycling levels because we
will have to reduce the areas for recycling and for hazardous
waste opportunities. So there are a lot of small costs, but when
they are added together all over the country you get to quite
247. Has the LGA attempted to work out a global
(Mr Didsbury) I understand it is difficult, because
there is uncertainty about what might or might not be included.
(Mr Fielding) No, because I think one of the main
issues is uncertainty, as I say, about whether or not we will
continue with blanket exemptions from the hazardous waste definition
of household waste. If we do, then the implications from the review
of the Special Waste Regulations probably on their own are fairly
incidental, they are issues mainly to do with additional haulage
costs, I would imagine. The difficulty will be presumably when
they are compounded with other issues like the Landfill Directive,
the WEEE Directive, and these things start perhaps to have a multiplying
effect. Also another important point is that a number of local
authorities are trying to do the best we can with hazardous household
waste at t the moment and incurring significant additional costs
beyond our statutory obligations to do sofor instance,
either by offering some form of kerbside collection for hazardous
waste or, in my case, offering a bring-bank (for want of a better
description) at CA sites.
248. What is a "bring-bank"?
(Mr Fielding) It is slightly more than just a dump
or bank. It is a container that has layers in it. Hazardous waste,
or materials that householders believe to be hazardous, is placed
in it and then is regularly inspected by a contractor, a qualified
chemist, to identify what the product is, if they know what the
product is, and then to arrange for it to be sent for onward destruction.
That is at some significant cost, and typical unit rates will
probably be over £1,000 per tonne. This is, compared to the
costs of municipal waste disposal, not just of an order of magnitude
but an order of magnitude on that as well. What we need to be
mindful of and perhaps I am concerned about is the potential perverse
incentive that may come through the review of the regulations
with the other compounding effects such that it becomes easier
and cheaper for local authorities not to go out on a limb and
incur those additional costs because doing so would be prohibitively
expensive. I think we need some way of managing the risks associated
with hazardous household waste to the degree that we can collect
more of it more efficiently rather than what I am fearful of at
the moment, which is that we will be in a position where we do
not want to segregate it because of the problems that that creates.
249. Uncertainty seems to be the besetting problem
here. Obviously you would hope that the Government would end that
situation as soon as possible and give you some certainty. Cost
is one thing. Planning to deal with changes in definition and
so on is another. From where they are now how long a period would
local authorities need to prepare for those changes if they are
(Mr Didsbury) The longer the notice the better. We
have coped with the fridges at truly short notice but we would
prefer probably a couple of years' notice. If we have to go out
and do a proper tender process, under the Environment Protection
Act and the European regulations to do it properly it takes nine
months to a year. Before that we have to think it through, prepare
documents, so realistically 18 months to two years would be ideal,
or perhaps slightly longer than that because of our own budgetary
cycles. Our chief finance officers prefer to know three years
in advance on prices so that they can build it into the local
250. In the LGA's written submission, paragraph
12, in relation to possible changes in Special Waste Regulations,
the LGA says they have considerably increased expenditure for
local authorities, and we have dealt with that, "with little
or even negligible benefit in terms of reducing pollution or environmental
risks". How do you come to that assessment? It sounds as
if the LGA is saying that this could be a great deal of additional
expenditure, a great deal of re-education of the public in fact,
supposedly to benefit the environment and to reduce pollution,
and yet the LGA seems to be saying in terms of what is proposed
in the consultation paper, I take it, that it would have "little
or even negligible benefit".
(Mr Fielding) That is probably more in context with
the risk approach that is at the beginning of that paragraph,
the proposal that if a risk based approach were taken particularly
to hazardous household waste, going back to my earlier point,
we would hope to be able to develop a system that could produce
environmental benefit at no cost rather than a system which means
adopting maybe a bureaucratic procedure, for instance, consigning
fridges at significant additional cost, with no additional benefit.
251. Can I just stick with paragraph 12 because
I am a little bit concerned? We have talked about the problems
that are going to be encountered for sorted and non-sorted household
waste. First of all, how long have we got to get that sorted out
so that somebody does not turn up at their civic amenity site
to find a damn great sign saying, "We will not accept the
following. Take them elsewhere", because that seems to be
a sure fire route to fly tipping, dumping and uncontrolled disposals
of waste. That is a bit of an Armageddon paragraph as far as the
citizen is concerned.
(Mr Fielding) It comes back to the point that we do
need clarity. I totally agree. The situation we want to avoid
is one where all of a sudden the regulation gives us no option
but to either stockpile fridges or just refuse waste. The example
given there of, for instance, treated timber, if treated timber
is to be banned from landfill and it is not part of the blanket
exemption for household waste, then the only options open to us
would be to either send it to high temperature incineration at
the moment or to arrange for it somehow to be treated. I am not
aware of the technology that would be able to deal with that at
this time. We need clarity as soon as possible on what wastes
are configured or excluded from this blanket exemption.
252. What is the deadline that you are working
to? When do you expect to get that information? Have you any idea?
Just say no if it is easier because we are very happy if you do
(Mr Fielding) The deadline will be determined by when
the regulations on disposal systems take effect. We would need
to know before then.
253. Tell me a bit about costs. Your evidence
is very strong on the "polluter pays" principle and
the cynics would say that that is because they do not want the
treasurer or the finance officer picking up the cost for the council
tax payer. As you say, this is about defining your budget and
being clear where your budget is. That is right?
(Mr Didsbury) Yes.
254. And that is difficult?
(Mr Didsbury) Yes. It is difficult when you do not
know what is coming in the future. With the fridges no-one was
prepared. On the things we currently send for specialist disposal
we have contracts, we know what the costs are. Costs mean round
about £120 a tonne for asbestos sheeting disposal. Waste
oil breaks even; it does not cost us anything. Batteries are another
thing that do not cost us anything. For things like treated timber,
because currently we do not separate it and there is not really
any suitable disposal outlet unless it happens to go to an incinerator
already, it is very difficult to work out what sort of costs we
are talking about, especially as garden furniture and timber are
seen to be one of the growth areas being sold in-do-it-yourself
shops and therefore it does not take too long for that to start
turning up at our end. Timber recycling usually excludes treated
255. In that case it is quite hard to define
the producer to make them pay for it.
(Mr Didsbury) Yes.
256. Whereas for larger bulk items clearly you
can establish a link and charge back. Are there indications that
the market is going that way, that the producer will pay in the
(Mr Didsbury) The indication is that producers will
try to avoid paying for as long as possible. With end of life
vehicles that has been put back to the last possible date before
they can do it. Systems which were mooted for fridges, where it
would be ideal perhaps to bring in producer responsibility earlier,
were not progressed. That was probably for very sound business
reasons and supporting British industry but from our end of it
it is a bit more difficult. The costs are quite high. We have
joined a system for all 33 London boroughs where we have a household
hazardous waste collection service and the City of London co-ordinate
it and therefore we buy in bulk effectively, so it works out at
£40 or £50 a collection, but we are talking about hundreds
up to £1,000 a tonne for the specialist chemicals which does
mean that this morning when we were fly tipped with 30 kilos of
acid we were fortunate that we had somebody we could ring up and
it has been dealt with.
(Mr Fielding) If I can pick up on the ELVs, you are
probably aware that the LGA has expressed a wish to register its
disappointment at the fact that the producer responsibility element
of the directive in the UK has been put back to 2007 and it was
the LGA's view that that should have been brought forward to at
least 2005 or as early as possible. To put that into context,
coming back to costs, I know that the Government's view is that
the abandoned vehicles element of that is going to be addressed
through changes to the way we identify owners but, given the market
situation with end of life vehicles that is likely to happen,
if we were to retain the existing numbers, which will be some
achievement, the likely bill to local authorities would be in
the order of the current bill for fridges, if not more.
257. Remind me what that is.
(Mr Fielding) The LGA's estimate is between £60
million and £65 million per annum, although I think the Government's
estimate is £40 million.
258. You have an involvement in end of life
vehicles. You said 2005. The small point is that you were in a
(Mr Fielding) Yes.
259. What you are saying to me now is that all
local authorities think this is a big problem, that the final
owner has the responsibility up to 2007 and you think that there
is going to be a cost burden in the region maybe of £60 million?
(Mr Fielding) Yes.