Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Fifth Report



  From our experience of local communities there is much anger at plans for incinerators and the lack of adequate recycling services. Many local anti-incineration action groups have been established.

  Eg GAIN (The Guildford Anti Incineration Network), SKI (Stop the Kidderminster Incinerator), Capel Action Group and groups in Redhill, Hull, Lancashire, Essex, Sussex, Kent and Medway etc . . .

  A Wastewatch NOP survey in 1999 showed that 89 per cent of people support recycling. (90 per cent say they recycle).


  Despite Meachers' desires, as a consequence of Waste Strategy 2000 most waste disposal authorities are planning a main role for incineration in management of their municipal waste. Many of these are totally out of proportion with local waste arisings.

  eg Planning permission has been given by Slough Council for S.Grundon to build a 440,000tpa incinerator. The municipal waste arisings for Slough are 57,306tpa (1999-2000). Recycling rate 11.06 per cent 6,340tpa. This is a huge incinerator, way out of proportion with local arisings, but was not called in by the DETR even though WS2000 says it does not expect "incineration with energy recovery to be considered before the opportunities for recycling and composting have been explored", and that "energy from waste plants should be appropriately sized". They will be taking waste from many of the surrounding disposal authorities, and have approached Oxfordshire, Bucks, Surrey, all the West London waste authorities, Surrey, Reading, Berkshire etc . . . Blatently in opposition to the proximity principle, which should be a key determinant of the BPEO.

  In Kent, the county council have already given planning permission for an 500,000tpa capacity incinerator at Maidstone (225,000 for Kent's MSW and rest for C&I). There are also proposals for two more incinerators in Sittingbourne (SITA 265,000tpa) and Richborough (400,000tpa). The municipal waste arisings for Maidstone are only 46,203tpa, with a recycling rate of just 8 per cent. MSW arisings in Kent are 800,000 tonnes. If the other two proposals take only MSW, then the total MSW incin capacity from Maidstone and the other two would be nearly 900,000tpa!

What should the Government's short and long term targets for recycling and composting be?

  Any specific targets must be based on the ultimate aim of reducing primary resource use to sustainable levels. FoE's publication "Tomorrow's World" calculates the levels we can sustain and the cuts we need to make.

  eg For wood we calculate the need for between a 67 per cent and 89 per cent reduction by 2050 (depending on population and production estimates).

  eg Metals—need an 88 per cent reduction in the use of primary aluminium by 2050, principally through increasing recycling and durability.

  FoE is aware of current high levels of primary resource use, and the pressures to increase consumption, therefore targets must be set progressively. Short and long term targets will send a signal to industry that the Government is serious about achieving sustainability and drastic reduction in resource use, and that they do not consider there to be a ceiling on recycling possibilities.

  FoE suggests that of 50 per cent recycling and composting by 2010 would bring us into line with international best practice cf other countries (see below) and allow us to meet our European Landfill Directive Requirements without incineration. An analysis of the composition is household waste shows this could even by achieved by composting alone.

  In the longer term most of the levels of recycling of specific material required to meet our Tomorrow's World targets are between 75-90 per cent. Research shows that 80 per cent of the household waste stream can already be recycled or composted, and it is only beyond these levels that issues of technical ability and energy use mitigate against efforts. Given that we are so far from these levels, FoE believes that in the long term the Government should first aim to maximise recycling as much as possible, focusing on the cultural changes to markets necessary, and beyond that work with industry to improve the recyclability of the remaining 20 per cent or so of household waste.

Are these targets achievable? How and why? What more needs to be done?


  We need to look at the composition of the waste stream: Research shows that approximately 80 per cent is already recyclable. One third kitchen and garden organics which can be managed through open, closed and in-vessel composting and anaerobic digestion (AD). Approx another third is paper and card, which can be managed by recycling, composting or AD. Approx 8 per cent is glass which can be recycled, approx 3 per cent is metals which can be recycled, 2-3 per cent textiles which can be recycled. Plastics can also be recycled, although there is lack of reprocessing capacity in this country.


  1.  Kerbside Collections for every household. Source separation is the best way to obtain high quality materials and the best way to drive home the importance of resource efficiency. Eg a trial scheme in Daventry increased the recycling rate from 12 to over 50 per cent in one year.

  2.  Research into use of variable charging. FoE believes this should be applied only after an effective and convenient recycling system is in place, and only if it does not disproportionately impact on low income households.

  3.  Sufficient Funding of local authority recycling. Research shows approximately £10 per household per year is needed to fund collections. (Though in Daventry council tax only went up by £6.50) FoE suggests that this should come from landfill tax revenue, through a refund system to local authorities. Costs are likely to decrease in the long term.

  4.  A higher Landfill Tax to make it bite. The Treasury take would then not decrease with a refund to Local Authorities.

  5.  A tax on Incineration.

  6.  Producer Responsibility regulations, to ensure products are easier to recycle, with better design and durability.

  7.  Minimisation—the Government should aim to cap on waste arisings. They should set a national and local minimisation target to do this, and provide advice to Local Authorities and householders on eg Home composting and nappy washing services.

  8.  Phase out of hazardous materials/materials which cannot be recycled.

How important is source separation, and how can it be encouraged?

  Source separation is fundamental to obtaining high quality, uncontaminated recovered materials for recycling and reuse. It is also the best way to drive home the importance of reducing resource consumption to householders, and the best way for everyone to "do their bit".

  Source separation in the home can be encouraged by a mixture of sticks and carrots.

  Carrots: Intensive education programmes, with telephone/personal support have proved very successful and popular in places, eg In Daventry 30,000 households have a weekly collection of dry recyclables, while organic materials and residual waste are collected on alternate fortnights. Participation is around 90 per cent.

  Education is fundamental. People must understand why they should recycle, and exactly how—it must be absolutely clear to the householder what can and cannot be separated for recycling and composting. Recycling must be as easy as putting the rubbish out.

  Sticks: In addition, evidence from abroad indicates that higher levels of recycling are achieved by including a financial incentive/penalty for non-compliance. Eg the Blue Box 2000 scheme in Canada introduced regulatory measures after the diversion options had been established, which resulted in a significant increase in all diversion activities. FoE believes that local authorities should explore the use of variable charging for waste collection, although FoE believes this should only be introduced if it can be shown not to disproportionately burden lower income households, and only after householders have been provided with a high quality recycling and composting service.

Should PFI be used at all for waste management?

  FoE does not have a problem in principle with PFI being used for waste management, and to ensure that investments are made in recycling and composting. We do have concerns over how it is done. It is important that communities and Local Authorities retain an element of control. Some local authorities have in the past been locked into contracts for incineration and landfill. Waste management in this country requires rapid and considerable reform and PFI must not be a barrier to that. (FoE thinks this would be much less likely to happen if PFI investment is in recycling and composting).

Is the funding allocated adequate?

  No—The overall amount committed is inadequate, and the means of provision is not steady or predictable enough for local authority fiscal calculations:

  The DETR £140 million Challenge Fund will leave winners and losers—will not improve recycling services across the board. There may be a significant bias in the distribution. The Institute of Waste Managers calculates that £140 million is equal to £1 per person per year for next three years.

  SSA increases are not ring fenced and there are other pressing claims on the cash. (The EPC block includes sports, leisure and library facilities, council tax administration, parking and magistrates courts. Environmental services such as waste management and environmental health are only a quarter of EPC spending). In addition, the increase is only of 4.4 per cent per year—much of this will be needed to cover inflation.

  If MSW arisings are allowed to increase at 2-3 per cent each year, then management costs will also increase, including the costs of a higher landfill tax of £14 by 2003-04. ENDS suggests that if MSW growth is allowed to continue, it could increase costs by more than £100 million per year by 2003-04 while the increase in landfill tax could add a further £70 million.

  Blair's £50 million commitment to Community Recycling through the New Opportunities Fund is welcome, but will not reach local authorities.

  The CRN, LARAC, the LGA, the ESA and the IWM have all expressed the view that funding for recycling is inadequate.

  Landfill is still very cheap—For example AEA Technology, in their report on waste management and climate change for the European Union, estimate the average UK landfill gate fee to be 43 euros (including tax), while in Austria the average cost if 117 euros, in Germany 90 euros, in the Netherlands 113 euros, in Sweden 86 euros and in Luxembourg 162 euros. While landfill remains cheap and does not reflect the true costs of resource use and pollution, it will be hard for recycling to compete.

  The Landfill Tax is not working in encouraging a drive to more recycling of household waste, as shown by the fact that the UK's municipal solid waste recycling rate has hardly risen at all during the last four years when it has been in operation. A survey in Materials Recycling Weekly showed that 81.8 per cent of the waste management industry thought the tax should be increased, the majority of which believed it should be £25 per tonne or more. At the same time as local authorities are expected to fund recycling systems, the proportionate burden of the landfill tax on them is increasing. In 1998 LAs contributed 35 per cent of gross tax yield (£140 million out of total £450), and today they contribute 60 per cent (£308 million out of £540 million).

  By contrast Incineration is subsidised from a variety of sources:

    —  PFI—seven packages awarded so far, all intended for incineration.

    —  NFFO—£233 million so far, and another £187 million agreed in future.

    —  Climate Levy Exemption—exempt through its definition as a renewable energy.


  Netherlands—60 per cent by 2000.

  USA—35 per cent by 2005.

  Switzerland—53 per cent in 1998.

  Austria—48 per cent 1996.

  Norway—38 per cent in 1999.

  Sweden—34 per cent in 1997. A ban on the landfilling of organics by 2005.

  Denmark—40-50 per cent by 2000.

  Finland—30 per cent in 1997, 75 per cent of biowaste to be treated by composting and anaerobic digestion (ie no incineration).

  Spain—20 per cent in 1997.

  Greece—25 per cent of biodegradable waste to be composted by 2005.

  Italy 35 per cent source sep by 2003.

What should have been done in the strategy about waste minimisation?

  Again the ultimate aim is reduction in primary resource use, and minimisation is a key part of any package to achieve this.

  Resource use must be decoupled from economic growth. The potential for resource efficiency is huge. The book "Natural Capitalism" suggests that in the US, just 1 per cent of the materials used in product production are still in the economy in six months' time.

  There are many ways industry could minimise waste, such as improving durability and recyclability in consumer products. Producer responsibility provides and incentive for them to do this. Shifting to a repair culture would also be good for local economies and provide more jobs.

  Policy measures the Government could practically pursue:

    —  Set a short term target to cap waste arisings, and a longer term target to reduce them. (Nationally and for local authorities).

    —  Give guidance to local authorities and households on waste minimisation. Eg nappy washing service, home composting. However while there is much local authorities could do, their impact is limited.

    —  Producer responsibility and taxes on virgin materials will give industry the necessary incentive to improve design and increase uptake of secondary materials.

    —  Many industries could move from providing products to providing services, as the photocopying service Xerox, and the carpet provider Interface have done. Government is supposedly committed to this shift, and should use economic instruments to reduce the use of raw materials and increase the use of labour. Product information should be given to inform consumers about appliances and about the benefits of product service options compared to the waste-fullness of existing patterns.

How can markets for recyclate be developed?

  FoE welcomes the establishment of WRAP, and is sure it will have a very positive impact on the development of markets for recycling. We also welcome the presentation of recycling as a business opportunity. However, we feel that ultimately this approach is limited, and it is unlikely that our goal of drastic cuts in resource use will be achieved by the market alone, which still does not reflect environmental externalities. We believe economic instruments are vital to internalise these environmental costs, such as:

    —  Resource Taxes on virgin raw materials like plastics and paper to further incentivise the uptake from secondary sources.

    —  Waste taxes like a higher landfill tax and a tax on incineration.

    —  Producer responsibility legislation to improve design and durability.

    —  Minimum recycled content.

    —  Government procurement.

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