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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 214 - 219)




  214. Can I bid you all welcome, and particularly our witnesses from the Local Government Association. I think it would be helpful if, for the record, gentlemen, you would be kind enough to identify yourselves, where you come from, and perhaps just one sentence about your particular responsibilities, to put you into context. Mr Fielding, would you like to start?
  (Mr Fielding) Certainly. I am Ian Fielding, Waste Services Manager for Hampshire County Council, and I am a Waste Adviser to the LGA.
  (Mr Didsbury) I am Stephen Didsbury, Waste Recycling Manager for Bexley Council. I am also a Waste Adviser for the LGA.

  215. You obviously have practical expertise in the field. Let us just start with what is becoming for us on this Committee an interesting but complex area of inquiry, as new legislation begins to be introduced originating through the European Union. We have had evidence from both the Cleanaway organisation and the Environment Agency that to try to pull together the many strands of the whole question of dealing with hazardous waste would require what they described as "a strategic plan for hazardous waste management". Do you think, from your practical experience, that such a plan is needed?
  (Mr Fielding) I think that yes is the short answer, although we probably have some views on how that plan should be developed and administered. From the LGA perspective, we would like to see the role of the regional planning bodies as a critical one in that process, as advised by the regional technical advisory bodies, and therefore some form of strategic representation from local authorities and practitioners such as Cleanaway. In principle, yes, I think we would support a strategic hazardous waste plan.

  216. Mr Didsbury, did you wish to add anything?
  (Mr Didsbury) Yes. We see it as two levels. We see it as the Environment Agency perhaps being the national institution at the head of it, looking at the bigger problems, and we can see that there is a small percentage of hazardous waste which has to be dealt with obviously on a national basis, and then regional implementation plans for that in terms of looking at what resources are needed in each region to ensure that waste never travels too far.

  217. Let me ask you this, Mr Fielding. One of the things the Committee gained some insight into last week when it visited Cheshire and the outskirts and in fact the "inskirts", the centre, of Liverpool, was that we saw four different aspects of the waste disposal industry effectively, all provided by private sector providers. Here you are representing a county council. What does the lack of a plan mean for you, with your county council hat on?
  (Mr Fielding) I think that particularly the local authorities' perspective and mine as a representative of a county council is in relation to management of household hazardous waste. Referring back to the plan, I think it is important to put into context the issues local authorities face in management of hazardous household waste, and particularly the difficulties we are facing in understanding perhaps the distinction between whether waste should be treated as household waste or whether it should be treated as hazardous waste.

  218. What are the barriers to getting the answer to that important question at the moment?
  (Mr Fielding) There are some very strong definition issues. The current Special Waste Regulations have a blanket exemption for household waste, with one or two notable exceptions from that, particularly with regard to asbestos, for instance. One of the things that we remain unclear about in respect of the new legislation is quite whether that blanket exemption will continue in the same way as it has applied in the past, or whether we will see particularly elements of the waste stream falling outside of that exemption and therefore having to be treated separately to household waste.

  219. Whose job is it to sort this out, in your view?
  (Mr Fielding) We need some guidance from the regulators. The Environment Agency presumably will provide that guidance under advice from the Government.

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