Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Correspondence from Dixons Group plc to the Permanent Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, 17 December 2001

  When we met here and subsequently at the BRC, I was gratified by your response to the problem as we see it relating to the disposal of old refrigerators. I also accept and welcome, as far as it goes, the announcement you have made regarding local authority responsibility for disposal and the support DEFRA is giving local authorities.

  This being said, the basic problem as far as we are concerned is still not addressed. We and the rest of the industry have discontinued collecting old refrigerators from customers because we have no means of disposing of them.

  Whilst customers are accepting this line and understand clearly why we and others have had to discontinue this service, early indications are that sales are being adversely affected and as refrigerators are manufactured in the UK the domino effect will be obvious. As I advised you when we met, the situation is likely to deteriorate sharply in January as we go into the peak season for refrigerator sales.

  The irony of all this is that we and others are quite happy to resume collecting old refrigerators. Our problem is that we have nowhere to take them nor can we ourselves store them, if we are minded to do so, since they are now classified as hazardous waste.

  It is clear to us, as I am sure it is clear to you, that this problem will not go away. Pressure is going to mount and criticism is going to become ever more strident. Eventually a solution will have to be found. It seems to me self-evident that it will be best that such a solution should be found sooner rather than later.

  It must be in the public's interest, local authorities' interest and the Government's interest that companies like us should resume collection of old refrigerators. All that is necessary for us to do so is for there to be designated collection points which are obligated to take them, which do not charge us for the privilege and which do not require us to sort them out by the local authority of the customers concerned.

  You will forgive me if I say that I cannot understand why this nettle cannot be grasped.

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