Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120
MONDAY 10 JUNE 2002
120. So none of these countries actually place
an obligation which says, "You must produce a certain re-cycled
item from this process." They leave it to the industry to
innovate to produce clean materials from whatever they have been
given and simply regulate to prevent disposal of those particular
items as pollutants into the landfill.
(Mr Averill) Absolutely correct. In fact, the more
we move forward along this agenda, the less we are a waste management
company; we are a secondary resource company.
121. Are there supplementary economic advantages
given to you, such as tax benefits of some kind, from generating
re-cycled material from hazardous waste? Are there no examples
where you get a credit of some kind from generating that output?
(Mr Averill) No, none. As you can imagine, if we take
the example again of polluted soil, the actual weight of the pollutant
as a percentage of the total is very small, and what it means
is all of that soil can now be re-used in the economy because
the pollutants have been removed, and that is exactly what happens
to it. We are a very big supplier of secondary energy through
electricity generated from landfill gas. We are a very big supplier
of secondary fuels where we are blending otherwise hazardous wastes
that are used as fuel. We are a big supplier of secondary materials
from outputs of the sorts of processes that we have just described.
122. To give an idea of the scale of the industry
we might be talking about here, you have operations in the Netherlands,
for example. From your experience of your scale there, what sort
of size of business are we talking about which could exist in
the UK and is instead being sunk into the ground?
(Mr Averill) Simply put, at the moment, the UK waste
management industry is around £4 billion a year. That is
a rough guide to the size. If we are to accept these much higher
environmental standards, in my opinion, it is very easy to see
that we can triple that, and we can add £8 billion worth
of economic activity.
123. But would it simply transfer £8 billion
of additional costs to the sectors involved, or would they be
to some extent forced to innovate to find other solutions for
parts of their problems? That was one of your suggestions, that
they did not have to try very hard at the moment.
(Mr Averill) Obviously the answer to the question
is there is a little of each, but the environment is here. These
are not jobs that can be exported to south-east Asia. Our environment
is here, and if we adopt this in the same way as we have adopted
health and safety legislation, in the same way as we have adopted
clean air legislation, and a number of other regulatory-inspired
initiatives which are really just representing the advancement
of society, I believe that we can generate this £8 billion
worth of economic activity, which is sustainable into the future,
which is going to generate a lot of secure, long-term employment
and good careers for our young people.
124. One minor correction: academic survey has
shown that the slave trade, at least in part, failed because of
its economic failings as opposed to the wish of northern states
to remove supposedly cheaper competitors.
(Mr Averill) I would agree with you, although not
many people would have done in anticipation. It was with the aid
125. In your evidence you talk about the Technical
Adaptation Committee. What is that?
(Mr Averill) The Technical Adaptation Committee is
the Committee at the Commission which is tasked with the waste
acceptance criteria, and it is this Committee which is behind
schedule, and lamentably so.
126. We now know were the buck stops in that
particular context. Thank you very much indeed for the patient
way you have answered our questions. As I said to the Chemical
Industries Association, we are right at the outset of our inquiry
and I am sure there will be a lot of other points and questions
we might want to come back to you on. In the light of the line
of questioning you have heard from us, if there is anything else
that you think would be helpful to (a) answer our questions and
(b) further our inquiry, we would be delighted to hear from you.
Thank you very much indeed for coming and giving your evidence
to the Committee.
(Mr Averill) Thank you for listening so patiently
and, needless to say, we are here to help and if you have any
further questions, we will do our very best to answer them.