II. The environmental cost of
22. The failure of the report to give any detailed
consideration to the environmental costs or benefits of alternatives
to aggregates extraction surprised us. Aggregates are used in
the construction of roads and buildings, directly and indirectly,
through the manufacture of other materials such as asphalt and
prefabricated reinforced concrete. There are strict quality standards
for materials used in construction, which limit the construction
industry's choice of alternatives.
23. The Government has specifically stated that it
hopes the aggregates levy "will encourage the use and development
of recycled and alternative materials".
Recycled aggregates have therefore been exempted from the tax.
However, the British Aggregates Association informed us of recent
work carried out by the British Geological Society, which concluded
that "the hard waste available for recycling is minimal and
only amounts to some 1%, rising eventually to 2% of total primary
Recycling in Northern Ireland, we were told, was of limited potential
because "the Northern Ireland economy has been based on a
different historical perspective from that in the rest of the
There are neither the brownfield sites requiring regeneration,
nor "the huge stockpiles of waste material from steelworks
or power stations which they have on the mainland".
Mr Ralph Clarke of the CBI Northern Ireland believed that "there
are vast areas of the Province probably 75 per cent of
it where there is nothing to recycle".
24. There are also environmental costs associated
with aggregates recycling. The contingent valuation study carried
out by London Economics tested local residents' willingness to
pay in order to make local quarrying activity stop. This 'willingness
to pay' value from each sample site was used to calculate the
financial value equivalent to the environmental damage. For comparative
purposes, the study also looked at some recycling sites: it is
interesting to note the 'willingness to pay' at different types
of site, according to the Phase 2 report.
|Hard rock (outside National Parks)
||£0.34 per tonne
|Hard rock (inside National Parks)
||£0.07 per tonne
|Sand and gravel||£1.96 per tonne
|Quarrying in National Parks
||£10.52 per tonne
|Wharves||£8.19 per tonne
||£9.57 per tonne
25. While the figures are described as "tentative",
the authors draw from them the conclusion "that alternative
sources of supply such as ... recycling have local environmental
effects of at least the same value - and quite possibly much
higher value - than those of primary aggregates production."
Since the levy is designed to encourage a switch from virgin aggregates
use to recycling as an environmental "good", this is
a deeply worrying hypothesis.