Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1020
TUESDAY 28 NOVEMBER 2000
TIMMS, MP, MR
HEWITT, MP, AND
1020. Because the DTI write that you favour
a "voluntary approach" to producer responsibility. Can
you tell the Committee what evidence you have to prove that this
can be effective in anything other than a few specific markets?
What discussions are the DTI currently involved in to develop
further voluntary producer responsibility measures?
(Ms Hewitt) Both DTI and DETR have been involved in
developing producer responsibility initiatives over the last couple
of years. So far we have targeted packaging, which of course is
the area where we have regulations rather than a voluntary approach,
vehicles, tyres, electronic and electrical equipment, batteries
and newspapers. Indeed, DETR recently announced a new voluntary
agreement with the Newspaper Association on newspapers. If I can
give you the example of ACORD, which is the Automotive Consortium
on Recycling and Disposal, that has brought together the vehicle
manufacturers, the dismantling and shredding industries and the
plastics and rubbers sectors, and they have made very good headway,
indeed it has given us a head start as we look ahead to having
to implement the European Union Directive on end of life vehicles.
We would take this case by case. We are certainly not saying that
it has to be voluntary but we certainly have examples, and I have
mentioned some, where voluntary agreements have delivered a very
significant improvement in recycling and reuse rates. There are
also situations where you will need statutory regulations. Indeed,
in the case of waste packaging, the PRN system, I understand one
of the reasons why we went for the regulation was because the
industry itself said they were worried about bad companies undercutting
good companies by free riding and not actually participating in
the voluntary agreement. So it was industry pressure in that case
that led to a statutory approach. In other cases we would have
to do regulations in order to comply with a particular European
1021. So you are quite happy with the responses
you are receiving from industry?
(Ms Hewitt) Yes. We have been making some very good
progress in the sectors that I mentioned. The next one that we
have singled out for targeting is junk mail, which as we all know
produces an enormous amount of waste paper, and we have started
working with the Direct Mail Association to see if we can conclude
a producer responsibility agreement there.
1022. If you have started doing it for motorcars,
why can you not do it for chewing gum?
(Ms Hewitt) I do not know. It is a very interesting
and good point, given the way in which we all suffer from chewing
gum waste of various kinds. I will make enquiries, Chairman, and
let you know. I am not sure, to be honest, whether that is DTI
or another department.
(Dr Keddie) I am not sure. That is an interesting
(Ms Hewitt) I will have to check and tell you in a
1023. Some witnesses have suggested that the
Government has taken a very weak approach to industry. How do
you respond to those suggestions? For instance, Friends of the
Earth write: "The target in the strategy for industrial and
commercial waste cannot be described as challenging. It is weak
in the extreme and shows an unwillingness in Government to challenge
industry and commerce to improve its performance."
(Ms Hewitt) I do not accept that. Clearly there is
a certain amount of industry would say what they say, which is
that they are facing some extremely challenging targets. When
I look at the combination of the voluntary and the industry agreements
on producer responsibility and the European Union Directives,
the End of Life Vehicles Directive, the Directive on Electronic
and Electrical Waste that is coming our way, various other Directives,
it seems to me there is a pretty powerful combination there both
of industry self-interest and response to our pressure to deliver
more achievements on this and regulation, whether it is coming
directly from the UK Government or indirectly via Brussels.
1024. How much of a real contribution can the
Waste and Resources Action Programme scheme make to the development
of markets for recycled materials and waste minimisation?
(Ms Hewitt) I believe that WRAP, which we have just
launched, will make a very substantial contribution indeed. The
Government is backing this new programme with £30 million
investment over the next three years. What I think we have identified,
and we began to identify in the earlier DTI recycling programme,
is the very real barriers that have prevented the development
of an effective market in recycled material. You have got the
problem in some cases that manufacturers or producers simply do
not know about the possibility of using recycled material as an
input to their own production process, there is the problem that
in many cases there are not good standards for recycled material,
and therefore producers do not know and they cannot rely upon
information to tell them that a recycled material can do the job
just as effectively as the virgin material, and there is the problem
that in some sectors we have got out of date regulations which
instead of specifying, as it were, the quality of the input material
specifies the nature of the material and specifically specifies
virgin material and thereby excludes recyclates. What we have
started to do in the DTI with a very small, almost a pilot programme,
the recycling programme, is to support research and development
that can pull through research and development in recyclates but
also work in standard setting, and that is what WRAP will now
take forward on a much, much larger scale. I believe the Committee
is getting evidence from Vic Cocker, who is the new chairman of
1025. Could I just ask both Ministers whether
you would agree with me that when the public think about renewable
energy, they think about something that is clean and virtually
(Ms Hewitt) My sense is that when the public think
about renewable energy, they want something that is going to reduce
the rate at which we are consuming fossil fuels and that will
help to achieve a reduction in emissions.
1026. Mr Timms?
(Mr Timms) I agree with that. Patricia proposed a
definition of renewable energy earlier in the hearing as a source
which is continuously and sustainably available, and I think that
will also marry with what members of the public think too.
1027. But we have been told by Greenpeace that
when you burn waste you get 80 per cent as much carbon dioxide
as you do from generating electricity in a gas-fired power station.
Surely the purpose of renewable energy is to help stop climate
change, is it not?
(Ms Hewitt) I was trying to make the point earlier
that providing you are taking a proper approach to minimising
the generation of waste in the first place and then recycling
and reusing where possible, the generation of energy from the
residue, as it were, of waste will displace the generation of
energy from fossil fuels and the accompanying emissions which
go with it, and therefore it has got a contribution to make in
achieving our goals for sustainable and indeed affordable energy.
The other point I would make is that we have already got a pretty
powerful system of regulation for waste incineration. We have
demanding technical standards and we have two European Union directives
being proposed on this, one on waste incineration and the other
on hazardous waste incineration, which will raise those technical
standards further across the European Union although, because
we have taken a lead in this, it is true to say most if not all
of our newer incineration plants would already meet those new
1028. Could I ask, again both departments, whether
you have no view whatsoever in terms of what the hierarchy should
be for renewable energies? Are not some renewable energiesand
you are suggesting energy from waste is a renewable energybetter
than others? What are you doing to promote those which are cleaner
and do not, as in the case of energy from waste, generate four-fifths
as much emissions as a normal gas-fired power station?
(Ms Hewitt) I would make two points. First of all,
even methods of disposing of waste which Greenpeace might prefer,
like composting, make their own contribution towards greenhouse
gases, in particular methane gas. Secondly, of course, we take
a view about how we design the system of incentives and subsidies,
and I was saying earlier that we very deliberately propose to
exclude energy from waste incineration from the new renewables
1029. Can you tell us exactly what it is and
how it is breaking down? It is 10 per cent, is it not? How is
it going to be met by the different sectors?
(Ms Hewitt) The target is for 10 per cent of generation
to come from renewables. We believe that energy from waste incineration
will deliver about 25 per cent of that. I have not, I am afraid,
got in my headand I turn to Alistair for this
(Dr Keddie) The answer, Chairman, to your question,
is that the other 75 per cent will come from a rangewind
power and so onand to some extent that will depend on how
fast the various other forms of renewable energy penetrate the
market place. So it is partly related to economics and technical
Chairman: When you say 75 per cent will come
from other things and then you say it is how quickly the market
develops, is there not a danger that it will not be met from that
area, in which case is waste going to produce a bigger proportion
1030. Is the 25 per cent a cap, in other words?
(Ms Hewitt) We will monitor this extremely carefully
but I would stress
1031. No, that was not the questionmonitoring
it. The question was put very nicely by Tom Brake, is there going
to be a cap of 25 per cent?
(Ms Hewitt) I do not think we have the instruments
to design a market such that you could cap the contribution made
to generation from waste incineration at 25 per cent, any more
than you could, or would want to, cap the contribution from renewables
at 10 per cent of the total market. But the new renewables obligation
that will replace NFFO is going to be a pretty powerful instrument
for helping to create a much larger share of generation from wind
power, solar power and other sources of renewable energy.
(Mr Timms) We know we are going to have a significant
amount of incineration, we have at the moment and we will have
in the future. I think it must be a good thing if that process
also generates energy because it is a process which is going to
happen, so that is a gain. The other point I would make, arising
from my work on the Climate Change Levy, we are supporting the
development of other renewable energy resources from the Climate
Change Levy from the £50 million over the coming three years.
1032. But you are exempting energy from waste
in the Climate Change Levy.
(Mr Timms) But the point I am making is that part
of the proceeds from the Climate Change Levy we are re-investing
in research and development on renewable energy sources, particularly
wind energy and energy crops. So it is not true to say we are
not investing in the development of those sources, we certainly
Mr Brake: Thank you.
1033. What research has the Treasury done into
the employment implications of greater recycling?
(Mr Timms) I am not aware of any research that we
have commissioned. I am aware of beneficial impacts from the development
of recycling, for example I met recently the chief executive of
the Groundwork Trust, which has had quite a big role in the environmental
option on the New Deal, and they had some very interesting projects
which have helped people into work and developed community recycling
as well. Whether there is an overall impact on the labour market
from the development of community recycling, I certainly have
not seen any definitive evidence to show that is the case. I think
probably the jury is rather out on that. It may or it may not.
1034. Can I pursue this question of newspaper
recycling? As I understand it, it was one of the ones in which
there was a claim of a good voluntary agreement being in place.
Will that level of recycling of newsprint be possible using newspapers
from the United Kingdom, or will it actually involve the import
of recycled paper?
(Ms Hewitt) Michael Meacher was the lead minister
on this. My understanding is that of the targets we have agreed
with the industry60 per cent recycled by the end of next
year, 70 per cent by the end of 2006that latter target
is subject to review and to the availability of UK newsprint manufacturing
capacity, and there is an issue there we need to consider.
1035. I understand one of the crucial questions
is that we need one extra line for producing recycled paper for
newspapers in this country.
(Ms Hewitt) That certainly is the point which has
been made to us.
1036. I understand a proposal was put up by
Aylesford Mill to actually put in that extra line and that it
went to the Treasury for the Treasury to review it. Do you know
anything about that?
(Mr Timms) I am aware that the proposal has been made.
I am not quite sure by which route that would have reached the
Treasury but I can certainly check.
1037. If you could make some enquiries because
certainly as far as the Committee is concerned it seems to be
a fairly murky area. It is suggested that the Treasury then turned
down the proposals for the Aylesford Mill because it did not have
many employment opportunities as a result of it. Having seen one
of their production lines at Aylesford, I can well see that actually
on the line there would be very few people employed but I would
have thought that in the process of collecting in old newspapers
there would be quite a number of jobs.
(Ms Hewitt) Chairman, if I can respond on this. No
decision has been made on that particular investment proposal.
There has certainly been correspondence between DTI and DETR on
the subject. DETR, I believe, is in the lead on it, but no decision
has yet been made.
1038. It is a question for your colleague when
he comes next week.
(Ms Hewitt) I expect it is.
1039. What advice would you, as the Department,
be giving? Is it a good idea? Are the jobs important or not?
(Ms Hewitt) There are commercial considerations which
are very important in this and which I think we are still exploring
with the company.
1040. In the House of Commons on Friday John
Gummer referred to some of the problems with the Packaging Regulations
and the fact that he thought there was a substantial amount of
tax evasion there or regulation evasion. Is there anything being
done to chase that up?
(Ms Hewitt) I am afraid I did not see Mr Gummer's
contribution on Friday. I am not aware of that as an issue, it
certainly has not been raised with me. Perhaps I could check back
on this and let you have a note.
1041. The last comment he made was about this
Tyre Recycling Committee. He seemed a little surprised that on
it there was not a single tyre recycler. Is there any reason for
(Dr Keddie) We would need to go back and look at the
membership but as far as I am aware it covers most, if not all,
of the interests. I would need to check the actual facts.
1042. He claims that it has the tyre makers
and the tyre retreaders but not a single tyre recycler.
(Ms Hewitt) That is something I will check and I am
grateful to you for drawing it to my attention.
Chairman: On that note, can I thank you very
much for your evidence.