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


Memorandum submitted by the CBI

  1.  The CBI represents businesses operating in the UK, who collectively account for approximately 40 per cent of the UK workforce. Our membership is drawn from across a wide range of sectors (including manufacturing and services) and a wide range of company sizes, from SMEs to major multinational enterprises. Many companies will have submitted individual responses to this inquiry outlining their specific concerns.

  2.  The CBI mission is to promote the conditions in which businesses in the UK can compete and prosper. A key area of our activity is to ensure that public policy contributes positively to this mission.

  3.  National and European public policy on sustainable development is an important element of CBI work. Our activities range from commenting on individual policy proposals, to informing public debate (eg through surveys, position papers), to playing a key role in developing leading edge policies (eg on emissions trading) and practical applications (eg on reporting and benchmarking corporate environmental performance).


  4.  Business is concerned about the way the UK Government has tackled the implementation of recent European environmental Directives. This has been prompted in particular by the uncertainty arising from the implementation of the Landfill Directive.

  5.  The CBI understands that the UK Government does not wish to attract infraction proceedings from the Commission for failing to implement legislation in full and on time. However the process of consultation has been protracted and difficult. It has resulted in transposition by the due date being achieved with little guidance in place on which business is reliant on basing its actions. Not only does this situation leave business in potential jeopardy from groups seeking access to justice, the lack of certainty also fails to allow an adequate basis for business to present a case to financial institutions for capital to invest in improvements needed for compliance.

  6.  We believe that Government would benefit from a better understanding of the changes that businesses will need to make to comply with the new requirements. In addition the time, money, resources and practicalities of making these changes should be further explored.

  7.  CBI members recognise the key role they have to play in delivering environmental objectives and wish to achieve this in a practical and cost effective way.

  8.  New regulation that will impose increased restrictions on hazardous waste disposal and short implementation periods look likely to pose a significant challenge for business. These challenges are compounded by a distinct lack of information from Europe and the Government on the exact requirements for future hazardous waste disposal.

  9.  Industry needs a clear definition of the hazardous waste types that can be accepted for landfill in the future. This is to be set out in the Waste Acceptance Criteria (WAC) which is urgently required if industry is to make the necessary provisions for future hazardous waste disposal and comply with the new regulation. There is potential for a number of waste types to fall outside the WAC and so would be unacceptable for landfill under the new regulations. However, there is a good deal of uncertainly about the quantities of such waste. Industry is now seeking assurances from the government that contingency plans are being made for the temporary storage and long term disposal of such waste types.

  10.  There is also a degree of uncertainly as to whether there is sufficient capacity for future hazardous waste disposal to landfill. Business is currently unaware of the number of landfill sites that will continue to accept hazardous waste in the future. This information is urgently required so those waste producers can make alternative arrangements for hazardous waste disposal if required.


  11.  The UK produces approximately 400 million tonnes of waste per annum[7]. It has also developed a high dependence on the disposal of waste to landfill sites. For example, in 1996 85 per cent of municipal waste was landfilled compared to a mere 35 per cent in Austria, 12 per cent in the Netherlands and 11 per cent in Denmark[8]. Industry has developed a variety of methods by which waste production is reduced and diverted from landfill. Hence a smaller proportion of commercial and industrial waste is landfilled, approximately 54 per cent. The Environment Agency[9] estimate that England and Wales produced approximately 6.1 million tonnes of "special" or hazardous waste in 2000, of which 43 per cent—2.6 million tonnes was landfilled.


  12.  Companies are actively seeking to reduce waste production by changing their processes and products, by developing new technology and by using new materials. There is also scope for diverting hazardous waste into recycling and incineration as opposed to the more traditional method of landfill.


  13.  The European Hazardous Waste Directive contains a defined list of substances classified as hazardous waste. The UK's Special Waste Regulations 1996, implement the requirements of this Directive, defining hazardous waste as "special" waste. The European Commission published a revised European Waste Catalogue and hazardous waste list in February 2001. This will add approximately 250 waste types to the hazardous waste list. As a result it is likely that the UK definition will be amended so that it includes all "hazardous" waste within the Directive. This is likely to triple the number of shipments and producers of such waste, adding a further 250 waste types to the hazardous waste list[10]. Examples include pieces of equipment such as computers and florescent tubes and the number of producers could tripe from 200,000 to 600,000 4. The UK therefore faces a significant increase in the quantity of waste classified as hazardous. With the imminent restrictions on hazardous waste disposal to landfill, this is likely to pose a substantial challenge for industry and government.


  14.  Recent European legislation governing waste disposal will now determine which waste can continue to be landfilled. Principally the Landfill Directive, agreed in April 1999, sets challenging targets that will restrict certain waste types being accepted for landfill. The provisions within the Directive which are of most significance to this inquiry include:

    —  the production of specific waste acceptance criteria which will determine which wastes can be accepted into landfill;

    —  requirement to treat waste prior to landfill disposal;

    —  a ban on a variety of waste that can be accepted for landfill, including certain types of hazardous waste;

    —  a ban on the co-disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous waste.


  15.  The Environment Agency (3) estimate that compliance with the Landfill Directive will lead to approximately 2.5 million tonnes per annum of hazardous waste being diverted from landfill. Industry continues to develop new ways to minimise waste production and to intercept this from landfill, but there will always be a residual amount of waste produced. Adequate provision needs to be made for future disposal of this waste. Compliance is likely to pose significant challenges for government and industry, these challenges will now be explored.


  16.  Member States were required to transpose the Landfill Directive into national law by 16 July 2001. However, the Landfill (England and Wales) Regulation has only recently been laid before parliament. Some requirements are already in force, for example the disposal of liquid, corrosive, oxidising, flammable and infectious clinical waste in new sites were banned in July 2001. Other requirements are soon to be enforced. From July 2002 the above waste types will be banned from existing inert, non-hazardous and hazardous landfill sites. Co-disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous waste will be banned in existing non-hazardous and inert sites from July 2002 and from existing hazardous sites from July 2004. This demonstrates the short amount of time industry has left to implement the requirements and comply with the new regulation.

  17.  Unfortunately progress has been slow and industry is still waiting for general and technical guidance on how to satisfy numerous requirements of the Directive. This documentation is urgently required for industry to develop the correct technology and provisions to effectively manage future hazardous waste disposal.


  18.  The Landfill Directive states that sites must comply with the WAC which determines those wastes that are acceptable for landfill. This criteria is being developed by the European Commission's Technical Advisory Adaptation Committee and was due to be released in July 2001. As from July 2002 landfill sites will be unable to accept waste which does not meet this criteria. Sites classified as inert or non-hazardous will be committing an offence by accepting "hazardous" waste from 16 July 2002. Obviously industry will be unable to comply with this requirement if they have been unable to view the WAC. Despite this information being unavailable, the Environment Agency has now acquired powers to issue closure notices on sites who are still accepting hazardous but are yet to submit Conditioning Plans.

  19.  Lack of WAC has posed difficulties for waste management operators to determine which of their sites will remain able to accept hazardous waste. This criteria is urgently required so that operators can determine the level of investment in new landfill or alternate treatment options. This lack of information will have a further spin off on waste producers who are left in the unacceptable situation of being unsure whether their existing landfill site will continue to accept their waste or whether alternative arrangements are required.

  20.  There is some potential for a number of waste types to fall outside the WAC and so would be unacceptable for any type of landfill under the new regulations. There is a great deal of uncertainly about the quantities of such waste. Industry is now seeking assurances from the government that contingency plans are being made for the temporary storage and long term disposal of these waste types.


  21.  Landfill operators are required to submit a Site Conditioning Plan to the Environment Agency or Scottish Environment Protection Agency by July 2002. From this date companies are required to classify sites as inert, non-hazardous or hazardous. One of the major challenges to be addressed is the uncertainly regarding the number of sites which will accept hazardous waste from July 2004. WS Atkins[11] stated that results from an early survey illustrated a possible shortfall in sites accepting hazardous waste.


  22.  As from July 2004, all waste must be treated before they are accepted to landfill with the exception of inert wastes that do not have to be treated if technically unfeasible. Industry is still awaiting guidance from the Environment Agency as to what specifically qualifies as pre-treatment. A draft of this guidance was issued in October 2001 however, industry still awaits the final version. It is essential that this guidance be published as soon as possible to enable companies to comply with the new regulation. There is also concern that there will be a lack of treatment facilities available. This may lead to an increased spreading of waste on agricultural land which is currently exempt from the Waste Management Licensing and Landfill Tax.


  23.  As from July 2002 hazardous waste types including corrosive, explosive, oxidising and flammable, liquid and some clinical wastes will not be accepted into landfill. Although industry is taking steps to reduce this type of waste, it is likely that some residual waste will still be produced. There is also a degree of uncertainly regarding the alternative disposal arrangements for these waste types. For example the question on whether there is sufficient capacity to divert waste from landfill to other means such as incineration has also been raised


May 2002

7   Waste Strategy 2000 Volume 1. Back

8   Cabinet Office-Tackling Waste: A Performance and Innovation Unit Scoping Paper December 2001. Back

9   Environment Agency website: Back

10   The ENDS Report April 2002 Number 327. Back

11   WS Atkins Environment "Implementation of the EC Landfill Directive, Consultants summary report prepared for DETR seminar 9 and 10 February 2000". Back

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