BAN Waste Select Committee evidence

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Phase 1 Day 5 2001-10-11 Andy Moore (Avon Friends of the Earth and Recycling Consortium)

report from minutes of Select Committee

Avon Friends Of The Earth - Mr Andy Moore

Submitted: Evidence from David Mansell on the role of recycling in Municipal Waste Management (for copy see official minute book). The chair welcome Mr Moore and invited him to make his presentation to the Committee.

Mr Moore explained the background to him substituting David Mansell and indicated that he would be happy to describe the role and scope of the Community Waste Management Sector nationally.

By reference to PowerPoint slides Andy Moor indicated that the Community Waste Management Sector comprised of several hundreds of not-for-profit making small medium enterprises backed up by thousands of voluntary groups and had been around some twenty years. Its origin sprang from thrift, environmentalism and early voluntary community collection projects. Many of the linked organisations had declared objectives about saving materials, educating the public about waste and that whilst they had Directors they generally did not have share holders and any arising profit tended to be reinvested in the community. This sector was very big with approximately 1.2 million householders involved in separated waste collection although it was not so prominent in the North East. The service was reaching 10 million people with a turnover of �50 - 100 million and extended beyond the UK. He emphasised that sorting at source into boxes for collection was without doubt the best process and accorded with the principles of "polluter pay" ie local people taking responsibility for the processing of their own household waste. Recent surveys had tended to indicate that kerbside collection was the most efficient way forward and sorting by the householder made good economic sense, often producing the best quality of separate material which helped to hold onto markets and ensure best prices.

The separation and binning process by householders encouraged people to think about waste and recycling and the broader issues involved including excessive packaging etc and then ultimately dictating to the big manufacturers and food retailers in terms of what was acceptable in the future thereby reducing waste at the front end. There had been a huge increase in the Community Waste Management Sector and it could continue to grow 50% year on year and could cover 25% of households in the next 5 years. It was likely that the Community Waste Management Sector would co-operate with 10-15% of the leading local authorities.

A question and answer session then ensued.

(1) How important are community sector organisations in moving towards better performance in recycling? How do you think they can be encouraged? (June Wolf)

In answer Andy Moor emphasised that community sector organisations were very important in this process. They engaged the environmentalists and the "bright thinkers" and brought pressure to bear on those who could conceive of the paradigm shift that was needed for the future management of waste. They had developed the methodology and innovation necessary to deal with the growing waste problems. They could, of course, be encouraged through income sources but more important were efficient economic instruments that the Government is putting in place but were not yet working properly (eg packaging compliance - landfill tax credits not forthcoming but going direct to local authorities. The Chair asked for a written note on this particular aspect and Andy Moor agreed to describe the process)

(2) Do you think the Community Sector will play a more or less important role in the future? What can the Community Sector do that the Private Sector could not? What are the Barriers / dangers that mitigate against the Community Sector? (Phil Capon)

Andy Moore suggested that it was primarily financial and secondly the local authority perception of what the community sector can deliver notwithstanding the vested interest in securing contracts for DSO's. (There was a need for more flexibility to encourage community sectors organisations to bid for and win contracts.)

When asked what the Community Sector could do better than the Private Sector he commented that the workforce often had a high predominance of environmentalists and students and those who cared for the community / environment. Also that profits were retained within the community and that finally the waste stream would become an asset stream.

(2) How willing are Local Authorities to work with Community Recycling Groups? What sort of arrangements are more suitable? Are recycling credits worth pursuing? (Nick Fray)

Andy Moore replied that the working relationships between Local Authorities and Community Recycling Groups varied enormously and depended on individual officers and Members. Money was also a factor. So far as the tax credits were concerned it was unfortunate that many Labour Councils would not take advantage of the provisions.

(4) How can some of the �50 million funding announced in October 200 best be bid for? How should we encourage our Local Authority to seek this and other funding? (Nick Fray)

Andy Moore replied that bids in respect of the �50 million held by NOF Board have to be through the Community Groups. He also indicated that there was �140 million coming to Local Authorities from DEFRA and that in his view this should be a challenge fund and be the subject of bids.

(5) Do you think the landfill tax credit scheme will effectively release funds for suitable projects? (Eric Landau)

In response it was suggested that the answer was 'yes' if it was reformed and put into the hands of a public body (say WRAP) - some lobbying happening. He also emphasised that the Government's grants mechanism meant to help Local Authorities were being reviewed / reformed and the bid process was unclear and it was felt that the actual funding was unlikely to come on stream until the third year.

(6) What are the positives and negatives of separating waste at source? At vehicle? At a Centre? (Eric Landau)

Andy Moore commented that the answer was much the same as all source separating ie high quality of and value of materials and also the need to engage householders as intelligent human beings capable of making moral choices. There should be lots of carrot and not so much stick because progress in waste reduction would not happen unless the public were very well informed about what were they were doing when they made purchasing choices.

The Chair queried whether separation at source was always the best; was it not more a question of horses for courses in relation to cans and aluminium extraction.

Andy Moore agreed that that was true but strongly suggested that any scheme should be designed to engage the public intelligently to get them to understand why they were doing it as a matter of priority. Although he acknowledged the need for technology at the right stage, kerbside separation he suggested was the best opportunity for educating and motivating the public.

In response to a query from Nick Fray, Andy acknowledged that there would continue to be new products coming onto the market (eg combined foil and plastics) which at the moment couldn't be separated so there would be a need to decide whether to recycle or dispose / landfill. It was always going to be difficult to deal with the last little bit of residual waste but progress can be made with the bulk.

(7) What markets are they for recycled materials. What sort of prices would you get from different materials - glass, plastic, paper etc? What is the range between the best and worst - how can Councils ensure they get the best prices? What are the problems? (Sylvia Conway)

Andy Moore indicated that in terms of price, glass varied enormously - there was a need to break the existing glass monopoly; there were many new uses being developed for glass both high and low value materials (eg filtration, road works). The price could vary from �0 to �20 per tonne. Newsprint also greatly varied but at the moment was in the region of �30 per tonne where there were long-term contracts - single community groups would get substantially less. There was a need for volume and to be prepared to do long term deals. The Government should be urged to agree to the development of more large mills, as at present some of this work was going abroad.

(8) Do you think it could be financially viable to set up a kerbside collection scheme for plastics in the near future in Newcastle? (Geoff Stokle)

Andy Moore acknowledged that this was a good question - it had been done in several places (eg Bristol) but did not happen everywhere because it was a very bulky material (although the tonnage price was high). It was difficult to collect - likely to need a compactor truck. There was also a high cost in capital equipment needed in the processing system. He pointed out that those local authorities who were currently collecting plastics were possibly employing an element of cross subsidy from other materials collected. He suggested that there was a need for help with the costs involved with the plastics through the economic instruments he had mentioned earlier.

The Chair asked if it would be feasible for people to shred plastic bottles in their kitchen (like the crushing of cans). Andy commented it would be possible if all the processing was unlikely in the near future). He didn't think that there was a trend towards standardisation or plastics used in the market although progress with the recycling of elements of scrap cars was being polymers were the same (but they were not) there were hundreds or thousands of polymers (this particular element of home made.

Bill Colwell asked whether it was possible to let the public know the value of waste materials to provide the necessary impact. Andy indicated that as he understood the position it was the role of WRAP to bring the quality of secondary materials into good market competition with primary inversion materials. He further clarified that the experiment of refillable plastic bottles did not catch on and died a death although it may be something for the future.

The Chair asked whether it would be legitimate for kerbside organisations to offer advice on say, not to buy tetra packs or specifically to buy this or that and inquired whether this should be more appropriately an education exercise for local authorities. Andy Moore replied that there were big problems with this and by example explained the legal difficulties of negative advice (ie don't buy) but that there would be no problem in proffering good positive advice; there was a need however to tread very carefully.

Reference was made to Supermarkets like Asda, looking towards having incinerators attached to their shops on a regional set up. Andy Moor didn't think this would catch on.

In conclusion the Chairman thanked Andy Moore for his contribution to the meeting.