Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1060- 1079)

TUESDAY 12 DECEMBER 2000

MR VICTOR COCKER, MR RAY GEORGESON AND MR DAVID DOUGHERTY

  1060. Yes.
  (Mr Cocker) I believe what WRAP is able to do is to take a strategic approach to waste and recycling for the first time.

  Chairman: You do not think the Department or the Environment Agency are capable of doing that?

Christine Butler

  1061. Are you better able to do it yourself? Can you do it better than the Environment Agency?
  (Mr Cocker) I know the Department spends a lot of time looking at this and looking at the opportunities to develop markets. I believe that they are right in saying that we ought to go about this initially by trying to develop those markets; and essentially to use us, as a company limited by guarantee, to try to facilitate those markets. That is obviously what we intend to do. We believe we have a very good chance of success.

  1062. What special perspective will WRAP bring to research and development in the waste arena, which no other organisation doing this work could bring?
  (Mr Cocker) A strategic approach. In the sense that we will be going into this. We are going to look at each of the waste streams and we are going to identify where the gaps are, either on the supply side or the demand side in appropriate technologies, and essentially target those specifically. If that R&D has already been done elsewhere, fine. We will not duplicate it. But what we intend to do is to make sure that the gaps are filled.

Mr Donohoe

  1063. How do you ensure that your role in the strategic R&D does not duplicate? I get the impression that it could duplicate what has been done elsewhere.
  (Mr Cocker) It absolutely must not. As I explained, we will start from our strategic approach by looking at each of the waste streams and identifying where research needs to be done. We will check whether quality research is being done elsewhere. If so, we will not undertake it ourselves. We envisage not undertaking a myriad of projects but a few strategically targeted projects, to try and improve the overall demand for recyclables and the market for recyclables overall.

  1064. So this is United Kingdom-wide is it?
  (Mr Cocker) Yes.

  1065. So you are looking at what is going on in Scotland, Wales, Ireland, as well as in England?
  (Mr Cocker) Yes.

  1066. Ensuring that there would not be any duplication in this system as far as the credits is concerned?
  (Mr Cocker) That is it. Basically we will aim to ensure that we are not duplicating what anyone else is doing and we will discourage others from duplicating what we are doing.

  1067. Can you give us some examples of something which has come up where there could have been duplication.
  (Mr Cocker) I am afraid I cannot at this point. I do not have any examples.

  1068. How do you then get all the information together? How do you feed into this central system? Is it your system which is central? Should everyone else look at what your work is? How do you go about structuring that?
  (Mr Cocker) What we have said is that we will be an open organisation. We will adopt an inclusive and strategic approach so we will let everybody else know exactly what we are doing. We do not start work until 1 January. When we put our business plan together we will involve everybody in that business plan. We will involve them in our thinking. Therefore, they will know exactly what we intend to do and where we intend to target. I cannot give you any specific examples because we have not done this specific work at present.
  (Mr Georgeson) It feels to me from outside that it is quite clear that there is considerable work to be done in research and development in new applications for materials and this broad area of recycling market developments. It is clear to many of us outside—and, indeed, those of us who are going to work inside WRAP—that WRAP will focus its research in those areas. There is much other research to be done in waste management. There are issues of overlap or duplication of research in other areas of the waste management region, not particularly just related to the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme, although that has been an issue because there is arguably some duplication of research projects in that area. Efforts are being made at the moment—certainly started by ENTRUST—and taken forward by a group of environmental bodies, who have an interest in research and development, to try, at the very least, to form some sort of database, accessible by the internet, to ensure that anybody who is seeking to undertake new research checks before they start to do it.

Mrs Dunwoody

  1069. Mr Georgeson, what are you going to do that a good research assistant could not do? I have read this business plan. "We are going to have a clear strategy." Yes, one would hope so. "A focused agenda, a structured approach, a robust decision mechanism." In other words, you have got to know how to make your minds up. "A series of deliverables, key policy objectives." Whatever are you doing that a good research assistant could not do with a series of computers and a solid number of hours?
  (Mr Georgeson) I think, Mrs Dunwoody, that is a fair comment but—

  1070. That is not a comment, that is a question.
  (Mr Georgeson) I will answer it. I think there is a lot more work to be done than one research assistant.

  1071. In what way?
  (Mr Georgeson) Everybody is talking about the need to make a step-change in the way that we handle waste in the United Kingdom. We have to reduce our dependency on landfill. We are going to have to start to develop new markets.

  1072. "We have a series of working papers addressing these issues. We are going to say, if you want to participate send us an e-mail."
  (Mr Georgeson) If I may, I am going to hand that back to the Chairman.

  1073. Come on, Mr Cocker, what are you going to do which is value for my money?
  (Mr Cocker) Of course, we have got to do the basic research and we have got to do the basic things.

  1074. It does not say that here in your business plan. It says you are going to take strategic decisions.
  (Mr Cocker) I think all you are looking at there is a document that we put out at our launch, which said how we are going to prepare the business plan. As I explained, the business plan itself is going to be produced between now and the beginning of April. In that we will have quite strategic direction.

  1075. Most people have strategic direction, do they not?
  (Mr Cocker) It is quite interesting that virtually all the players in the recycling business—and, indeed, in the whole of the waste business—have been delighted at WRAP's introduction.

  1076. I am delighted that they are delighted but what are you going to do?
  (Mr Cocker) Basically, what we intend to do is to bring together all the forces and to identify what is the best route to take.

  Mrs Dunwoody: Okay, I rest my case.

Mr Donohoe

  1077. But how do you get over this problem? I went to visit one of the operators in recycling. They have got a lot of good ideas. There are not going to start broadcasting those on the internet, because it would be commercial suicide if they were to do that, given that they have an idea. You, as an organisation, are going to be tied up with R&D and are going to make sure there is no duplication. How are you going to overcome the problem of the guy who has something commercially sensitive, from which he sees a way forward to make money? These guys are in it to make money. They are making money at this stage and they can make a hell of a lot more money. Now where do you fit it in with that organisation? If you are doing the R&D and you have something which is commercially viable, somebody is going to make money out of that. Why is it not you?
  (Mr Cocker) Because we are a non-profit making organisation. We are only going to be investing in things which are going to make a strategic difference. I do not see any problem with the individual who has an excellent way of recycling and wants to invest in it and develop it. That is the way markets work. Certainly we will encourage people to use those approaches where we believe they will add to the overall demand.

  1078. Could I come back to you, Mr Georgeson, and ask what changes you would like to see, if any, to the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme.
  (Mr Georgeson) Speaking on behalf of Waste Watch, Waste Watch has some very specific views on the way that the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme could be changed within its present boundaries.

  1079. What are they?
  (Mr Georgeson) They are that we should restrict the amount of money which is spent on the category D and the local amenity and community projects, valuable work though it is.


 
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