Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Fifth Report


  Mr Andrew F Bennett's letter of 7 November to Patricia Hewitt asked for a written memorandum from this Department in connection with the Environment Sub-committee's inquiry into Delivering Sustainable Waste Management.


  1.  The Department of Trade and Industry was closely involved in the development of the Government's waste strategy for England and Wales—Waste Strategy 2000—published in May this year. The DTI's own Sustainable Development Strategy, published in October, identifies reductions in waste generation as a key feature of improving resource productivity, and contains a number of actions which complement the waste strategy.

  2.  The DTI Sustainable Development Strategy notes that only 1 per cent of what goes into making products is currently still in use in six months' time, and recognises that waste represents inefficient use of resources, costs to business and clean-up costs to society. The Strategy sets the Department an objective of strengthening the capacity of business to reduce waste generation through innovative and market-based solutions, and to exploit growing commercial opportunities at home and abroad. It aims to do this by increasing the productive use of resources through more efficient, less-waste-producing technologies and processes, closed-loop production, product design, and recovery, recycling and re-use.

  3.  Apart from seeking to ensure that the policy framework supports innovation and enterprise in this field by, for example, making more and better use of market and voluntary approaches, DTI will achieve this objective through a number of programmes, such as:

    —  DTI Recycling Programme and DETR/DTI Waste and Resources Action Programme, which are helping to develop markets and end-uses for secondary raw materials.

    —  DTI/DETR Envirowise Programme (formerly the Environmental Technology Best Practice Programme)—encouraging businesses to adopt the practices of the best.

    —  DTI/Research Council Sustainable Technologies Initiative, which brings together business and the science and engineering base to develop new technologies and processes to bring about step-changes in resource productivity.

  4.  The Committee has asked that the following specific topics be covered in this Memorandum:

What role the DTI sees for producer responsibility measures in promoting sustainable waste management; and in particular how it is involved in developing any new producer responsibility measures which may be envisaged

  5.  The Department sees producer responsibility as a potentially important means of motivating businesses to take action to reduce the environmental impact of their products over the whole life of their products by, for example, increasing re-use, recovery and recycling rates. Businesses can be encouraged to give greater consideration to environmental impacts at the design stage, by using less material and facilitating refurbishment, dismantling, recovery and recycling. Recycled material can also be specified in the manufacture of the products themselves. The challenge lies in designing producer responsibility initiatives that are effective, lead to real environmental improvements, and strengthen business competitiveness.

  6.  The DTI's general preference is to encourage a voluntary approach to producer responsibility, since this can help provide the flexibility necessary to stimulate more innovative and cost-effective solutions. But introducing producer responsibility legislation may be considered where (i) a voluntary approach would be unlikely to achieve the environmental benefits sought; (ii) those benefits are significant against the costs of regulation; or (iii) a statutory approach may be necessary to demonstrate compliance with EC legislation.

  7.  DTI is closely involved, with other Departments, in the identification, initiation and development of any new producer responsibility measures. For example, DTI currently leads for the UK in EC negotiations for a directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment, which has internal market and economic implications.

How the DTI is helping to develop markets for secondary (recycled) materials

  8.  The Department sees the development of strong demand for recycled materials as key to securing sustainable increases in waste recycling rates. In 1998, it commissioned a study by the Recycling Advisory Unit at AEA Technology Ltd of the options for developing markets for recycled materials. The study identified a number of factors which affect demand for recyclate, including a lack of information concerning the availability and performance of recycled materials. Without this data, manufacturers are unable to judge the viability of using recyclate in their production processes. Demand can also be inhibited, for example, by product standards and specifications that discriminate unnecessarily against the use of recycled materials, or by the absence of standards and specifications for such materials.

  9.  The DTI Recycling Programme, announced in October 1999, offers financial support, in a competitive bidding process, towards projects falling in two main categories:

    (a)  research and development projects which develop or demonstrate new uses for recycled materials, or develop and demonstrate new sorting or recycling techniques

    (b)  underpinning projects which develop standards for pre-processed and reprocessed waste materials, or review existing discriminatory standards and specifications, or identify and disseminate best recycling practice, including better design.

  10.  The call for proposals under the Programme resulted in 1,400 expressions of interest and 246 outline applications, with a strong level of industry interest. The applications covered all the main material sectors. Nine projects, involving grants of about £1 million, have been selected for support. These projects are all due to commence before the end of the year and cover R&D and underpinning projects for waste plastics, vehicles, glass, rubber, chemicals and acids. The DTI Recycling Programme was established as a precursor to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP). WRAP, launched on 15 November, is a not-for-profit organisation, to which DTI has already committed £2.5 million. Market development will be a key feature of WRAP's work.

How the DTI is encouraging industry to take advantage of the business opportunities offered by more sustainable use of waste materials

  11.  The DTI/DETR Envirowise Programme (formerly The Environmental Technology Best Practice Programme) promotes the use of better environmental technologies and practices that reduce costs for industry via performance guides and case studies. Although this activity is primarily aimed at reducing the generation of waste, some sectoral studies highlight the recycling opportunities which exist for unavoidable manufacturing wastes. The DTI/EPSRC LINK Programme "Waste Minimisation through Recycling, Reuse and Recovery" has supported research into numerous projects which will facilitate recycling and reuse in many sectors of industry. It has now entered the dissemination phase and an active programme is taking place to bring the results to as many interested businesses as possible. In close association with DETR, the Department is also encouraging a better understanding of recycling opportunities through the Waste and Resources Action Programme.

What contribution the DTI expects energy from waste incineration to make to its 10 per cent target for renewable energy, and the level of financial support envisaged for it

  12.  The Department expects energy from waste incineration to make a contribution of approximately one quarter of the Government's 2010 target for renewable energy. Energy recovery from municipal solid waste and from mixed streams of commercial and industrial waste is already commercially viable and well established in the market. For this reason, the Government has proposed that energy from these sources will not be eligible for the Renewables Obligation on which we are currently consulting, but will be eligible for exemption from the Climate Change Levy.

  13.  Current and future energy from waste plants will clearly have an important role to play, alongside the considerable increases in recycling and composting envisaged in Waste Strategy 2000.

November 2000

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