Select Committee on European Communities Eleventh Report


36. In the Waste Framework Directive, waste is defined as "any substance or object…which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard". An argument advanced by witnesses opposed to comparability of control for incineration and co-incineration was that waste-derived fuels should not be defined as waste. The distinction is important for operators of co­incineration plants, because emission limits for plants burning conventional fossil fuels are less stringent than for waste incinerators. The British Cement Association claimed they had legal support for the argument that waste was indeed, in their members' hands, fuel, because of their intention as holders to use it as fuel (Q 199). Du Pont argued that by-product fuels such as Dycal (a proprietary by-product of nylon manufacture) should not be treated as waste: "Its definition as a waste would be more likely to motivate disposal than to encourage its use in a constructive way" (p 152). The Electricity Association maintained the definition of waste should explicitly exclude refuse derived fuels (p 153).

37. The regulatory agencies, however, disagreed with these views. SEPA argued that waste burnt as a fuel should still be classified as waste, although it was concerned that the Directive should not inhibit multi-fuel power generation (p 31). The Environment Agency stressed the need for a consistent definition to prevent market distortion. Mr Lee explained what is known as the "special measures" test—the question "whether (a waste) has been processed to the point where it is capable of being used in the same way as a raw material of non­waste origin", leading to the further question whether any "special measures" apply to the use of the waste-derived fuel. (Q 116)


38. There was general support for the view that where incineration did take place, it should be with energy recovery, and that this could be a valuable adjunct to sustainable waste management strategies. The Environment Agency commented: "Incineration with energy recovery in certain circumstances will make a positive contribution to sustainable development where non-recyclable and otherwise unusable wastes are contributing to resource conservation". Similarly English Nature supported the use of incineration with optimum energy recovery where this represented the BPEO (p 154). Friends of the Earth (FoE) did not dissent from this view, but saw incineration as a barrier to recycling; they also (in common with others, e.g. Mr Ryder of Communities Against Toxics) had serious concerns about health impacts (p 4).

39. Some witnesses went further in advocating incineration as a preferred option in sustainable waste management. Mr Richard Mills (NSCA) felt that the current standards achieved by modern incinerators were good, and that incineration could play a substantial and probably increasing part in waste management strategy (Q 256). Professor P C Coggins of Sheffield University said: "For a range of wastes currently generated, incineration with energy recovery is the Best Practicable Environmental Option", and urged the need to consider Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation (NFFO) subsidies as a positive economic advantage for incineration rather than as an incineration tax (p 197). Professor Andrew Porteous of the Open University stressed that if incineration had been introduced on a wider scale, it could have contributed to major savings in CO2 emissions (p 176).

40. Surrey County Council recognised that the Directive would mean additional costs for local authorities; however it was necessary to face them, since legislative controls of this kind were a driving force towards sustainability. The Directive was expected to contribute to a sustainable waste strategy for the UK (p 195).


41. Aspinwall and Company considered that the Directive itself would not contribute to sustainable waste management as it did not address the broader role of waste incineration in integrated strategies (p 135). A similar argument was put forward by FoE (Q 5), although they conceded that incineration (like landfill) might be the best option for certain residual wastes after all opportunities for recycling or composting had been exhausted; they were concerned that excessive incineration capacity could have the effect of discouraging waste prevention and recycling (QQ 2-3,15). FoE argued that there should be a requirement for pre-treatment of waste before incineration, with a view to removing recyclable and hazardous materials and wastes suitable for composting (Q 2, p 1). The ESA agreed with FoE that there was much scope for pre­separation of waste containing heavy metals, for example batteries and fluorescent tubes (Q 65).

42. Ms Ruth Frommer, for the Commission (DG XI), said that mere incineration of waste, like landfill, was a form of disposal; as such it was the least preferred option in the Community's waste management strategy, in which the first option was to prevent waste, the second being to recover materials and energy from waste and disposal coming last (Q 493-6). Mr Meacher agreed that incineration should be seen as one of a range of waste management options, but said that the Government was still keen to see a big increase in recycling. He added, however, that to meet the requirements of the Landfill Directive "there is no question that there is going to have to be some significant increase in incineration. The size of it I think is quite alarming" (Q 451). Asked to explain the basis of his Department's estimates of additional incinerator capacity needed, he said that the estimates were essentially based on estimates of future waste arisings on a number of different recycling scenarios (Q 470).

43. The Minister later expanded on this and other points in a letter (p 118). The figures of between 50 and 177 new incinerators which he quoted in his oral evidence have been revised downwards to between 28 and 165 on the basis of an updated Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) for the Landfill Directive, provided to Parliament with a Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum (7161/99) of 16 April 1999. The calculations assume incinerators with an average capacity of 200,000 tonnes of waste per year. It is estimated that capital investment of between £1.4 and £6.9 billion would be required by 2016 to meet the targets of the Directive, depending on the assumptions made about the level of recycling and use of other waste management options. Extracts from the RIA are reproduced in Appendix 4.


44. A number of witnesses argued that the IPPC Directive, and the corresponding Integrated Pollution Control (IPC) regime in the UK, could provide more effective controls because they were site-specific and allowed for progressive improvement, by application of the BATNEEC principle, as well as providing adequate controls in themselves. SEPA in particular saw the IPPC Directive as the potential "cornerstone of EC pollution control. It would be regrettable if many single media, single industry directives continue to follow in its wake"(p 30). The Electricity Association saw "no basic need for such a Directive to cover the co-incineration of waste in power stations at all. The IPPC authorisation process adequately covers this situation and IPPC plants should be excluded from the scope of the proposals" (p 152). The same point was made by Scottish Power. NSCA and Aspinwall and Company similarly commented that it was not clear whether major benefits were to be gained from a separate Directive (Q 270, p 134).

45. The EWA believed that the proposals should concentrate on stated environmental goals rather than on the means to achieve them (p 82). The BCA argued that emission limit values did not recognise the individual characteristics of cement plants, the raw materials used and their isolated rural locations: Dr Evans pointed out that the Environment Agency's BAT authorisations did not reflect a static position: "Whilst BAT is site specific, it is always moving, and there are commitments within each authorisation to achieve certain improvements within agreed timescales" (Q 180). The Agency stressed that where ELVs were prescribed by directives for particular processes, these would be seen as minimum standards, and that BATNEEC and BPEO would continue to be applied on a site-specific basis (Q 122).

46. Against this it was argued that EU-wide standards were appropriate: Cleanaway, for instance, was concerned about market distortions and felt that a prescriptive Directive in these circumstances was needed rather than the wider discretionary scope of the IPPC Directive (p 143). Shanks & McEwan and IChemE felt the Directives were complementary and could work in tandem; Surrey County Council, however, saw a need for more explicit linkages between the Directives (pp 191, 172, 195).


47. Many supporters of the Commission's proposals felt they could have gone further. The European Parliament adopted a number of tighter standards proposed by its Environment Committee, including a limit for ammonia (absent from the Commission's proposals). There was also support, as we have noted, for the view that the proposals were insufficiently integrated with other waste strategies.

48. On the question whether there was merit in consolidating the proposed Waste Incineration Directive with the existing Hazardous Waste Incineration Directive and the proposed amendment (see paragraph 0), Shanks and McEwan were opposed to the proposal. They felt it could lead to a relaxation of controls on hazardous waste incineration (p 191). Cleanaway, on the other hand, felt it would be appropriate to consolidate and rationalise existing Directives: it would "simplify the regulatory position and reduce the number of potential anomalies that could arise from the practice of co-incineration"(p 142). The Minister's attitude to the Presidency's proposal was that it was "slightly disconcerting"; he felt that the Government would go along with it, provided it did not delay implementation of the Hazardous Waste Incineration Directive, for which the compliance deadline (July 2000) was little more than a year away (Q 443).

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