Memorandum submitted by Local Government
The Local Government Association represents
the interests of all the local authorities in England and Wales
and is therefore able to speak on behalf of waste collection authorities
and waste disposal authorities, on whom the Ozone Depleting Substances
Regulation (ODSR) is having a major impact.
The LGA and some local authorities have been
in discussion with DEFRA since the issues raised by the implementation
of the ODSR, and the anticipated difficulties that these were
likely to cause, first came to the fore, last year. Local authorities
are represented on an officer-level DEFRA "stakeholders"
group and the LGA is represented on the Ministerial "roundtable"
of leading players (local authorities, retailers, etc) first convened
by the Minister for the Environment on 18 February 2002. The LGA,
acutely aware of the pressure which local authorities are currently
experiencing, is anxious to find a solution to the current fridges
situation, and is committed to work with the Government and other
leading players to achieve an early resolution of outstanding
difficulties. In this context, there may well be lessons for the
Government to consider in terms of the experience of other European
countries which are somewhat more advanced in identifying solutions
to the same problems caused by the introduction of the ODSR.
A major concern which the LGA has is with regard
to the delays which have taken place in adequately responding
to the ODSR, which have led to the present unfortunate situation
where local authorities are having to bear the brunt of a problem
outside their own making.
The Association's concern centres upon the Government's
slowness in realising the likely impact of the regulations and
the action that would be needed to respond to their implementation.
The ODSR was, in fact, agreed in 1998, coming into force in October
2000 when it replaced EC Regulation 3093/94. Notwithstanding the
uncertainty concerning, and clarification sought regarding, the
issue of whether foam containing ODS would be subject to the regulations,
it is considered that far higher priority should have been given
by the Government to resolving this issue at an earlier stage.
In the event, it was not until Summer 2001 that
local authorities and the waste industry received confirmation
that the ODSR would in fact affect the recovery of foam contained
in refrigerators. At this stage, local authority representatives
flagged up to DEFRA the likely scale of problems and the possibility
of 'fridge mountains' building up, due to the Regulation's impact.
There is a perception among those involved since Summer 2001 in
discussions with the Government that these warnings were insufficiently
Notification to local authorities from DEFRA
of the potential impact of the Regulation was only sent on 11
October 2001, whilst guidance on the storage of waste refrigeration
equipment was circulated by DEFRA on 3 December 2001, barely three
weeks prior to the Regulation coming into effect. At the same
time, an additional £6 million was announced by the Government
to assist local authorities with storage until the end of March
As well as the fundamental delay in clarifying
the impact of the Regulation and planning adequately in advance
for its implementation, there have been subsequent delays in providing
a final specification for treatment standards in treatment/reprocessing
plants, in providing the £6 million to local authorities,
and in dealing with the demise of the retailers' take-back schemes
and finding a suitable alternative arrangement. These points are
covered further below.
The introduction of the Regulation, and in particular
the cessation of the retailers' take-back schemes, has led to
a massive increase in the number of end-of-life fridges which
require to be dealt with by local authorities. Many local authorities
are reporting a three or four-fold increase. Whereas, prior to
the Regulation, in rough terms half of end-of-life fridges were
covered by retailers' take-back schemes and half were going through
the local authority route, that situation has now been transformed
radically, with local authorities being the sole recipients. The
Association is aware that contractors used by some retailers have
gone out of business as a result of the ODSR. The argument is
being put forward by some retailers that there may be a knock-on
effect, such that some companies in the metal recycling business
may stop taking white goods altogether, because of commercial
considerations arising from the end of fridges take-back.
The LGA supports the Minister for the Environment's
action in drawing together a round table of relevant bodies, including
the LGA, to address the take-back situation, and considers that
its early resolution will play a critical role in helping to ease
the present situation. It has to be borne in mind, of course,
that notwithstanding the withdrawal of retailers from their take-back
schemes, once the Waste Electrical and Electronics Equipment Directive
comes into effect in a few years' time, retailers will be required
to have such schemes in place. In this context, there are arguments
for bringing forward the implementation of suitable schemes, rather
than promoting a short-term solution which could have additional
financial and administrative impacts on local authorities.
An area of major concern for local authorities
is the additional cost burden arising from the increased number
of fridges with which they are required to deal. The LGA considers
that the sum of £6 million allocated by the Government for
storage of fridges up to the end of the present financial year
DEFRA's estimate of the overall cost of implementing
the regulations is in the region of £30-40 million. However,
on information presently available, based on figures provided
by local authorities, it is estimated that authorities are likely
to need a minimum of £55 million to meet the additional costs.
However, the Association is aware that other estimates produced
earlier in the year have been significantly higher (eg by the
National Association of Waste Disposal Officers, NAWDO). Whatever
the likely figureand we recognise that this will be affected
by various factors, including trends in commercial rates, and
the possible re-introduction of retailers' take-backthe
sum required is likely to be significantly more than that allowed
for by current assumptions. To date, there have been no meaningful
discussions between the LGA/local authorities and DEFRA and the
Treasury regarding these longer-term costs. The Association is
anxious that progress should be made, to allow local authorities
to make the necessary plans for the next financial year.
The Association is concerned that, so far, no
authorities have received any of the additional £6 million
pledged in early December 2001 to meet the current financial year's
storage costs. It is understood that the earliest this funding
will become available to local authorities will be the start of
the 2002-03 financial year through the rate support grant settlement.
Essentially, at the present time, the principal
difficulty for local authorities is in terms of the safe storage
of fridges, until such time as there is sufficient capacity in
the UK waste industry to cope with their treatment and disposal.
As might be expected, many local authorities are considerably
concerned, after only 2-3 months of the ODSR coming into effect,
about the limited availability of storage space and, in many cases,
the likelihood that this will be full before very long, giving
rise to additional costs. Another obvious area of concern is in
relation to complying with the health and safety requirements.
The longer the problem of large numbers of fridges stockpiled
awaiting treatment continues, the greater the likelihood of some
unfortunate accident occurring, whether in relation to the personal
safety of individuals or the possibility of a fire occurring,
triggering the release of CFCs and HCFCs.
The LGA recognises that the Environment Agency
has taken a relaxed stance to the introduction of the ODSR, and
has drawn up a standard licence for the handling and storage of
waste refrigeration equipment. The Agency's line appears essentially
to be that, as long as no pollution is caused through improper
handling and storage, it will not adopt an over-zealous approach
to enforcement. Although there is some anecdotal evidence from
local authorities that in some areas this may not be being applied,
the approach adopted by the Agency is likely to assist local authorities,
rather than hinder them, in dealing with the large numbers of
fridges requiring storage since the Regulation came in.
The delay in clarifying whether the treatment
of insulation foam would fall within the ODSR has had the unfortunate
effect of meaning that the UK waste industry is insufficiently
prepared and unable to provide capacity to deal with the treatment
and disposal of the growing number of fridges being stockpiled
by local authorities.
At present, the only option appears to be one
or two companies in the UK which operate high-temperature incineration
plants, although it is understood that at least one contractor
has, as an interim measure, developed export contracts to take
fridges from the UK for treatment in Europe. Although this route
may be capable of making only a relatively small contributiongiven
the limited capacity which is understood to exist in Europe to
take overseas (ie UK) fridgesthis nevertheless represents
an option which some local authorities are understandably keen
to explore. The Government is, of course, encouraging the treatment
of UK fridges within the country. However, the delays referred
to earlier are likely to mean that, realistically, the earliest
that ODS recovery plants will come into operation would be this
Summer. However, it is likely to be some time after that before
the UK has sufficient capacity to deal with the backlog of fridges
which is accumulating.
It is considered that the delay in the production
of final specifications for treatment plants is unfortunate, since
this has frustrated the waste management industry's ability to
develop suitable plant, and has similarly affected local authorities'
ability to contract for the development of plant. In short, companies
have been unwilling to commit without knowing what standards would
have to be met. The other major factor affecting the development
of capacity in the industry has been the lack of financial certainty
in terms of the funding which local authorities will receive from
Government, which understandably has meant that authorities have
delayed entering into contractual arrangements. It is understood
that the final draft treatment standards (which the Agency has
been tasked with producing by DEFRA) are to be issued imminently
by the Agency for consultation, with a view to their being in
force by April 2002
One further area requiring clarification from
Government is regarding revised legislation for hazardous waste,
arising from the Government's current review of the Special Waste
Regulations. Advice issued by DEFRA to local authorities in October
2001 indicated that revised legislation was expected to come into
force in Spring 2002. However, it is now understood that consultation
from DEFRA on the implementation of the Hazardous Waste Regulations
is expected sometime during the Spring, possibly by the end of
The particular issue of concern to local authorities
is regarding the status of domestic fridgesin particular
whether there will be a distinction between fridges delivered
by householders to specific amenity sites and those delivered
to sites by commercial operators.
It is anticipated that the implementation of
the Hazardous Waste Regulations will mean some additional costs
to local authorities. Most civic amenity sites are not licensed
to take hazardous wastes, and will therefore require licence modification.
Certificate of Technical Competence (COTC) qualifications will
also need upgrading.
The LGA considers it imperative that Government
learns the lessons of the developing fridge "crisis"
and plans adequately for, and sufficiently well in advance of,
the introduction of future European regulations, such as the Waste
Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive. A similar situation
must not be allowed to occur againadequate time has to
be allowed for local authorities and the waste industry to implement
the requirements of new regulations in a planned, professional
Local Government Association
25 February 2002