Supplementary memorandum submitted by
the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
When I appeared before your Committee on Monday
1 July, I promised to write with further details on two issues.
Firstly on whether we have any further details on a possible short-fall
in disposal options for hazardous waste after 16 July, and secondly
providing my comments on the need for a national hazardous waste
management plan as outlined in the Environment Agency's memorandum
to the Sub-Committee.
As I made clear in my evidence, we do not foresee
any shortfall in capacity for disposing of hazardous waste from
the middle of this month. The Landfill Directive requires that
operators classify their sites as hazardous or non-hazardous by
16 July. Co-disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous waste can
continue in hazardous waste landfill sites until July 2004. Until
site operators have submitted their plans we will be unable to
say for sure what the total capacity will be, however our discussions
with the waste management industry have indicated that there will
be sufficient capacity to dispose of hazardous waste until at
least July 2004.
The provision of alternative technologies or
processes are commercial decisions and, given the highly competitive
nature of this market, the companies involved are reluctant to
share their plans with anyone. As a result of this reluctance,
my Department has been unsuccessful in obtaining further information
over and above that which it has already given to the Sub-Committee
in its original memorandum. DEFRA and the Environment Agency will
continue to work with industry to identify any future capacity
You also asked me to consider the Environment
Agency's evidence to the Sub-Committee and the need for a national
hazardous waste management plan.
The Agency's evidence says "A national
hazardous waste management plan is needed to ensure an adequate
national network of hazardous waste facilities are available .
. . Together with a national plan for hazardous waste management,
the Agency would like to see Government proposals for hazardous
waste reduction as a development of the strategy."
The UK, as required by the Waste Framework Directive,
already has National Waste Strategies for England, Wales, Scotland
and Northern Ireland, and regional Waste Management Plans for
Gibraltar and Northern Ireland. These are supplemented by the
Environment Agency Strategic Waste Management Assessments (for
England and Wales), the Scottish EPA Waste Data digests, the Wastes
Arisings Survey for Northern Ireland and Planning guidance. These
cover all waste areas, including hazardous waste.
I have doubts about the usefulness of Government
compiling a UK hazardous waste plan which prescribes the number,
type and preferred location of treatment facilities required in
the UK by 2004. Even if such a plan were to be produced it would
not act as a driver to private investment in such plant.
Targets for the reduction in quantities of hazardous
waste are covered in Waste Review 2002. However, it is important
to note that implementation of the EU Hazardous Waste Directive
will lead to a significant increase in the quantity of hazardous
waste produced, as more waste streams will then be classified
as hazardous. Until we have accurate figures on the new waste
streams on which to establish baselines, it will be meaningless
to establish new targets. However it will be an important task
to undertake once the new UK hazardous waste regime comes into
force and the Environment Agency have collated data on the actual
I note that most parties giving evidence in
this inquiry have indicated support for a national plan or strategy
of some kind, however there seems to be no agreement as to what
this plan should achieve, who it is aimed at or who should produce
it. A summary of the views as I understand them are given below:
CIA: An industrial waste strategy
produced by an industrial waste forum.
Shanks: A framework for the management
of hazardous waste focussing on the producer and prohibiting environmentally
unacceptable treatment methods.
LGA: A national plan produced by
the Environment Agency and regional plans on a local level.
ESA: A strategy covering at least
the next decade and connecting chemicals policy, producer responsibility
and waste management regulationproduced in partnership
with Government, Regulators, industry etc.
I accept the need for better dialogue between
Government, Regulators, local authorities, the waste management
industry and waste producers, and fully support the proposal for
a hazardous waste forum. I have asked my officials to set this
in motion. I foresee one of the tasks of this forum to explore
the UK's needs in terms of hazardous waste disposal. However,
I do not want this to become just another "talking-shop"
with endless discussions and no outcome. All stakeholders must
be prepared to enter discussions fully and openly, to provide
data and input on facilities and future plans, to ensure that
all concerns may be addressed.
Rt Hon Michael Meacher MP, Minister of State (Environment)
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
17 July 2002