Examination of Witnesses (Questions 380
TUESDAY 2 JULY 2002
380. But if you did not have that?
(Ms Weeks) We would have to use fossil fuel.
381. And it would increase your costs?
(Ms Weeks) Absolutely.
382. So that is the argument?
(Ms Weeks) Yes.
383. Why cannot cement kilns fulfil the same
role as high temperature incineration, in hazardous waste management,
what is wrong with that?
(Ms Weeks) You will be hearing evidence from them
shortly, and I am sure they will give their point; but it is my
understanding, certainly from the American experience, that there
are certain waste streams which are not acceptable, because of
affecting the quality of the cement. So, again this is the American
experience, that high chlorine, high metal wastes eventually come
through in the product and affect the quality of the cement; and
there are certain water companies in the States who will not use
cement types which have been manufactured from hazardous waste
plants, because they are worried about the metals leaching in.
384. So a better definition of what can go where?
(Ms Weeks) Yes. If we accept that there is a rump
of material which cannot be burned in cement kilns, and the next
evidence may say differently, but if there is a rump of material,
which we believe there is, which should never go to cement kilns,
that is the malodorous, highly chlorinated, very reactive, the
active pharmaceuticals, then we have to have facilities which
can take that rump of material, otherwise, the only option for
the UK is to export this waste to the rest of Europe to dispose
of, and that is against all the European and international treaties.
So if we want to keep the two plants that we have got then we
have to make sure that we can actually operate and have the waste
(Mr Hazell) Could I perhaps come back to a question
that Mr Mitchell asked me, and turn it round on the cement industry.
Obviously, the cement kilns are looking to get calorific value
from the work that they do, they are trying to reduce the cost
of their energy; so, in a sense, the burden of proof is more on
them, with their existing infrastructure, than it is on our industry,
to justify what they are doing. I think we would acknowledge that
the cement industry, like any other responsible industry, is seeking
to manage its risk, and the Battelle Report, which I am sure you
will be asking the next witnesses about, does show that the cement
industry, as does ours, has to balance a whole range of risks,
like environmental risk and the quality of its product.
Chairman: Right; before we get too far down
the calorie-counting line, we will move to David Lepper.
385. Can I just make sure I have followed something
that you said earlier, when you were talking about the Waste Acceptance
Criteria having changed, you said, I think, radically, or fundamentally?
(Mr Hazell) Yes. Mr Meacher did not mention this,
when he gave evidence yesterday, but, as a result of pressure
from the Austrians last week, the Waste Acceptance Criteria were
materially changed; and the relevance of that is that the Waste
Acceptance Criteria effectively define what investment there will
be in infrastructure. And perhaps it is best if Mrs Heasman specifies
the way in which the criteria did change last week.
(Ms Heasman) The discussions, for the last couple
of years, have been on the basis of setting fixed criteria numbers
that will be applicable to all sites throughout Europe, and that
was indeed the basis on which risk assessment work was done, a
lot of it funded by the UK, and research was carried out to derive
these numbers, and that was the way in which it was moving forward.
The draft decision document was issued last week, and in that
draft decision document the statement at the beginning of the
section on Acceptance Criteria states that they may be based on
site-specific risk assessment to the satisfaction of the regulatory
authorities, provided that the numbers did not change by more
than a factor of three from the original numbers. Now that bears
no relation whatsoever to the risk calculations that were carried
out, these are numbers that are now plucked out of thin air, with
no justification. I was not at the previous Technical Adaptation
Committee meeting, but I understand this issue was not discussed
at that meeting at all.
386. Does what you have just said relate to
another point, which I think Mr Hazell made, in his opening presentation,
about DEFRA having failed to fully appreciate, I have written
down here, the European dimension? I think you were suggesting
that DEFRA had never quite come to terms with the way in which
decisions are eventually arrived at?
(Mr Hazell) Yes. My assertion has a number of components
to it. Our impression, as a very, very rough rule of thumb, is
that our engagement with DEFRA officials tends to have more the
character of a last-minute panic on relatively small, specific
issues, than of the longer-term strategic relationship that, as
a key, essential service in this country, we would expect to have.
And, as I used Europe by way of illustration, and I want to say,
since the Secretary of State has come in and the new Department
has been set up, there have been various outreach initiatives,
but I do not think that there has been any attempt on Europe at
all by DEFRA in terms of their engagement with ESA; frankly, they
have not got the people in the waste side to do it anyway. But
there has been no attempt to engage with us and to say, "Well,
look, we are no longer entirely sovereign in this area, but the
policy that drives our longer-term agenda is being formed at the
Council of Ministers, where we can be outvoted, it is being formed
in the European Parliament, where you have a voice, as much as
we have a voice; why don't we come together and think about the
sorts of things that we might together say, because that will
then impact on the types of decisions that will be made here in
years to come?" That type of relationship is totally absent,
387. So here was DEFRA saying, or, at least,
implying, here were the draft Waste Acceptance Criteria, this
is all the industry needs, in order to come to some decisions,
in planning its investment for the future, and yet, if the industry
had done that, it would now be adrift considerably, financially,
possibly, and you are suggesting, are you, that a stronger or
a more proactive engagement by DEFRA officials, Ministers, both
with your industry and with your European counterparts, might
have led to greater certainty at an earlier stage?
(Mr Hazell) Frankly, it is astonishing how much uncertainty
has prevailed in the UK for so long; and, again, Mrs Heasman can
go through the detail of it much better than I can. But you know
better than I do that the Landfill Regulations have come through
Parliament a year late. The general scale of uncertainty facing
an industry that wants to do the right thing, that is willing
to invest, is almost beyond belief; it is actually quite hard,
particularly for people who have worked in other sectors of the
economy, to try to relate what is expected of the industry with
the type of engagement that typically we have, and the quality
of the information we are given.
388. Could I just pursue you a little further
on that, because I think it is very important that we get the
right balance about where, if blame is the right word to apply,
the blame lies for this uncertainty; because, interestingly, both
in terms of his written and indeed evidence yesterday, the Minister
said, and I quote from paragraph 43 of DEFRA's evidence to us:
"The UK has been doing its best to drive the process forward,"
this was on the Waste Acceptance Criteria, "we have led and
funded much of the modelling work that is informing the Criteria."
Now the impression you have given is of an industry aware of what
is coming down the track, crying out for detail; detail there
is none. If we wind the clock back to when the Commission initiated
this process, where does the blame lie, because this thing has
been going on for a long time, in an area which is already subject
to quite a lot of national and European regulation? What we are
talking about is changes to the regime for dealing with hazardous
waste, and if we are to understand, when we write our report and
make some recommendations, where should we be pointing the finger,
in your judgement, should it be at the Commission, for not having
dealt with the detail at the beginning, or the United Kingdom
Government for not having translated matters with the speed you
would like, or is it everybody? Help us to understand where the
blame chain should be?
(Mr Hazell) I will preface what I am going to say
by saying that I think the quality of interaction we have with
officials of the European Commission is of a different order of
magnitude from the quality of interaction that we have with DEFRA
officials; so I preface it by saying that. Obviously, one can
only have some sympathy with the Minister's comments yesterday;
it is extraordinary for a Directive to be agreed by Member States
without them really knowing what it actually means. But you then
do have to cast doubt on the wisdom of those Governments which
signed the Directive without being sure what it would mean and
just signing it for the sake of getting an agreement. So I think
the comments that were made in evidence to your Committee yesterday
were right, that, as a general principle, one should understand
that, certainly, in the tradition of this Parliament's law-making,
to have a pretty good idea what laws mean before they are signed.
So I think one can blame the European decision-making process
for that, and one would hope, in an ideal world, that the European
Convention might deal with that type of issue. And, again, on
the Waste Acceptance Criteria, I certainly would not want to suggest
that we blame the Government for the situation that we are in,
because it would not be fair to say that we do; i.e. the Waste
Acceptance Criteria, and Leslie can correct me if I am wrong,
I think, have to be agreed by every Member State on the Committee.
And the particular problem the British Government is now confronted
with is that, at a very, very late stage, a stroppy and relatively
small Member State, for reasons that are not totally clear to
anybody else, has insisted on change to the Criteria. And that
gives Mr Meacher a very, very difficult decision; do they go along
with that change to the Waste Acceptance Criteria, again, for
the sake of agreement, so that at least we can start to plan on
the basis of something, or is a decision deferred, yet again,
until we try to get something closer to the risk-based agreement
that Mrs Heasman was alluding to. All I can say is that it is
not entirely the Government's fault. But, as an industry, we took
a delegation of the industry's leading chief executives to see
Mr Meacher, in January of last year, and that was certainly not
the first time that we drew the attention of the Government to
the importance of the Waste Acceptance Criteria, we have been
going on about it consistently for years. And, basically, what
we were told at that meeting was, not to worry our little heads
about it, it would all be sorted by July, that was July last year.
And the great difficulty is that, even if everything is sorted
out tomorrow, you are not really going to see anything showing
in investment for years to come, because the planning system is
not helpful, and these things take time. So, certainly, we do
not blame the Government for everything that is wrong, and the
Waste Acceptance Criteria is a good illustration, I think, of
broadly where the balance of blame does lie; there are certainly
lessons for the future.
389. I just want to pick up on one point of
detail, before just asking you to comment on the End-of-Life Vehicles
Directive and the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive,
and the implications for this. Ms Heasman, I got the impression,
almost, from what you were saying, that you thought that the existing
UK landfill arrangements, where you would have biological processes
which could help to stabilise and process waste, might have been
a better solution to have stuck with than the European agreement,
now, of this separation out of hazardous wastes and ultimate disposal
under certain defined conditions. And there appear to be two schools
of thought; one that says, "Yes, that seems to be okay,"
there are others that say, "Well, if you put them in a landfill
site you can't quite be certain what's happening to them, we don't
know, for example, how long the life of a liner is," to give
one example, "it's better, so we can see where they are,
to put them into defined circumstances." You were not trying
to run yesterday's battle when you made that, or was it a technical
observation that you still feel quite strongly about?
(Ms Heasman) It is a technical observation that I
feel extremely strongly about. I recognise that the Landfill Directive
is here, we have to make the Landfill Directive work. In looking
back at the lessons that we learn, I think, as UK plc, we did
not lobby and explain the benefits of the system that we use,
which is very different from the system used elsewhere in Europe,
we did not explain the controls that were in place; everybody
that becomes aware of how co-disposal is managed is extremely
surprised, it is very different from the vision they had of co-disposal.
I am not trying to rerun that battle. I live in hope that when
the Directive is reviewed in 13 years' time some of the benefits
may be recognised; but I recognise the Directive exists. In terms
of the way in which the Directive progressed through the different
stages, in Europe, it is interesting to note that at the very
beginning the Directive had Waste Acceptance Criteria as part
of the Directive; that was then removed, because that was a very
difficult bit to agree to, so the numbers were taken out, it was
put in the `too difficult' box. And, to my mind, it is bizarre
for people to sign up to legislation where some of the most significant
implications of that legislation is unknown, and that was put
to one side, to the Technical Adaptation Committee to resolve
and agree, to a timetable, which then had to tie into an implementation
timetable within the Directive. There appears to be no sanction,
where that timetable is not met, and no consequent amendment of
the dates within the Directive itself, as a result of that failure
to meet the target. So, as an issue, in terms of law-making, I
think that is one that should be borne in mind in future.
390. So are you saying then that the game was
changed after it had started?
(Ms Heasman) Yes. The Landfill Directive, the draft
has been about for ten, 12 years, whatever; the very early draft
had numbers in it, those numbers were taken out because they could
not be agreed, in order to move it forward.
391. And just in terms of the question the Chairman
asked, it has been put to me that we are overdependent on landfill,
in this country, and we have depended on it too heavily for too
long. You are saying you have got an attachment to that system,
but surely the effects of what happens to hazardous waste are
totally unpredictable, and it depends on the mixture and all sorts
of variable factors, you cannot make a generalisation that this
is still an effective way of disposing of it?
(Ms Heasman) There are huge amounts of research, this
is perhaps not the topic of this inquiry, that have been carried
out, there is a lot of data available, the loading rates of the
particular components of hazardous waste relative to the biodegradable
waste are fixed, based on research, they are controlled on a site-specific
basis, they are monitored on a site-specific basis. I do not disagree
that the types of waste that are suitable for co-disposal are
limited, and there should be very strict controls over what is
acceptable for co-disposal and what is not acceptable for co-disposal,
and there has been some blurring of those boundaries, and they
should be more strictly set. But, in terms of discussing and agreeing
the Acceptance Criteria, co-disposal is gone, there is no point
hankering after it, it no longer is acceptable under European,
and now UK, legislation. The initial approach of DEFRA was different
from the approach of the Environment Agency, in terms of what
those Acceptance Criteria should be; the Environment Agency approach,
which the industry supported, was for single numbers that would
be consistent across the country, that every site, regardless
of the environmental situation of that site. DEFRA's approach
was that they should be set on a risk-based, site-specific basis,
so there would be different Acceptance Criteria for each landfill,
based on the situation in which that landfill was environmentally.
So at the beginning there was a difference of approach; that,
I am sure, must have delayed the lobbying process within Europe.
At the end of the day, it was quite clear that, given the approach
in most of the other Member States, we were going to end up with
a single number anyway; whether that process could have been pushed
further, I do not understand enough about the European Technical
Adaptation Committee's procedure to know how that could have been
392. Let us just have a look, briefly, in our
last few moments, at one or two other issues that are out there.
Last week it was tyres, and the Tyre Manufacturers Association
seemed to be confident that they could deal with the mountain
of tyres, both the ones that are already accumulated and the ones
that were going to come along, and yet it is not entirely clear
to me, once we get to, I think it is, 2004, and even shredded
tyres cannot go to landfill, quite what is going to happen to
them. There is even greater uncertainty, as we have heard during
the course of our inquiries, about the End-of-Life Vehicles Directive,
that is all sort of shrouded in mist, and there are going to be
further hazardous wastes which will now be extracted from our
humble automobiles, we are not quite clear who is going to be
responsible for all that lot. And then there is the electrical
equipment side, and Mr Mitchell has alluded to his own personal
sort of lamp mountain, which he wants to find some way of getting
rid of, his neon tubes are all waiting to be disposed of. It is
quite difficult, when you have got this sort of tidal wave of
problems coming at us, to sort of see the wood from the trees;
but what are your views, in just a few moments, on some of the
issues which have got to be addressed, arising out of what I have
just been talking about?
(Mr Hazell) In the broadest terms, I would suggest
that the European driver towards increased producer responsibility,
fully building in the total cost, including the environmental
costs, of a product, is the right approach to go, although, probably,
and I am not a technical expert on this, but I think the Commission
recognise this, the life-cycle analysis and the way all that is
calculated is a rather crude science, at the moment, and needs
to be significantly developed; the Commission does seem to be
going away from a product-specific approach to a more generic
approach to producer responsibility. All one can do is make a
number of fairly general observations. The car that I have got
is a Honda that is made in Swindon, it already anticipates producer
responsibility, the whole of the dashboard
393. Your car is talking to you, is it?
(Mr Hazell) It is made from the same plastic, the
whole of the dashboard, so it is actually constructed, the difficult
part of the car is often the dashboard, it is already made in
a way with recycling criteria very much in mind. There are uses
for tyres. It is just a question again, all this comes back, if
the Government says what it wants to achieve, our industry can
help them to do it.
394. Let us just ask, finally, the Government
have established, almost now quite quietly in the background,
the Performance and Innovation Unit, who are supposed to be conducting
some vast, forward-looking inquiry into all waste matters; let
us just focus for a second on hazardous waste. Have you, for example,
been asked by the PIU for any information about hazardous waste
problems, in general or in the specific, and have you, as an Association,
any hopes or anticipations of what you think the PIU might be
able to contribute to addressing many of the problems that you
have outlined for us this morning?
(Mr Hazell) I will disclose an interest, in the limited
extent, that I am on the Secretary of State's Advisory Board,
in connection with the PIU. They have not directly addressed hazardous
waste with us. The primary remit of the PIU was to address municipal
waste, in England. So the core focus was a different focus. But
what we have done, as a trade association, and I understand that
Mr Averill made allusion to this, in his oral evidence, is that
we have enabled the PIU to visit a number of treatment plants
in Belgium, operated by SITA, and further plants operated in The
Netherlands by Shanks. So we have given the PIU some insight into
the types of facility that are being operated in northern Europe,
and in very broad terms the regulatory framework that makes that
possible. Obviously, our hopes for the PIU are high, but they
are, principally, because that is really the main chance that
we are going to get in this Parliament, to sort out waste as an
issue, but these hopes really have to be focused, I think, more
on municipal waste than on hazardous waste. If, incidentally,
the PIU come up with helpful statements on planning, and, again,
we live in hope, we are an optimistic industry, that would be
of direct relevance to the remit of this Committee, because
395. So are you suggesting that the current
planning process does not help to deliver the facilities that
your industry needs?
(Mr Hazell) That would be an extremely polite understatement.
396. You are very polite people.
(Mr Hazell) I mentioned earlier, the Green Paper on
Planning does not address the concerns of this industry, and,
again, it is an industry that wants to do the right thing by this
country, it wants to invest in new infrastructure. And, again,
I think it is fair to say, I do not want to overstate the point,
but as regulation, in practice, tends to push waste treatment
down the waste hierarchy, so does the planning system, and it
certainly is not easier to get planning permission for a recycling
or composting facility than it is for a new landfill.
Chairman: Mr Hazell, may I thank you, Ms Weeks
and Ms Heasman for some very interesting and informative evidence.
We are grateful to you for coming. You very kindly said you will
send us one or two further pieces of information, if I might ask
you to do that at your earliest convenience, because we are hoping
to get our report out as quickly as we can, and that information
will be helpful. And thank you very much for coming to see us
this morning; and, just finally, if there is anything else that
you felt you wanted to draw our attention to within the timescale
I have outlined, please do not hesitate to do it. Thank you for