Extract from Booker's Notebook 20/06/04 ".... an avalanche of directives, classifying ever more items as "hazardous waste" - computer screens, asbestos, paints, batteries, old cars, meat products, contaminated soil (see report top right). At the same time it has issued another mass of new laws that make it ever harder to dispose of these things. Next month the two streams of legislation will collide, bringing the system to the point of collapse. "
5th July 2004
McIntosh: Government landfill targets are over ambitiousPress Release from Conservative Party
The Shadow Environment Minister, Anne McIntosh MP today challenged the Government’s figures for the maximum amount of Biodegradable Municipal Waste (BMW) permitted, which is to be sent to landfill in 2010, 2013 and 2020. Speaking in advance of the debate on the Statutory Instrument, The Landfill (Scheme Year and Maximum Landfill Amount) Regulations 2004, Miss McIntosh said:
“Conservatives support the Landfill Regulations 2004, but the Government should not set landfill targets which are over ambitious for both Waste Disposal Authorities and businesses to meet.
It is alarming that the Government has increased the targets for the maximum BMW allowed to be sent to landfill than the figures specified in the final Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA). These targets are now too high to strictly meet the EU requirements, and the two different figures in the RIA and the main text of the Statutory Instrument are causing complete chaos all round.”
Friday 2nd July 2004
Fly-tipping costing the UK £150m a year
As part of a campaign to highlight the escalating problem of fly-tipping, Conservatives have brought together interested groups to explore the causes of the problem and seek possible solutions. Speaking after the seminar last night, the Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Richard Ottaway MP said:
“I was shocked to hear the true scale and cost of fly-tipping from the Environment Agency. They estimate it is costing the economy £150m a year and reports suggest that organised crime is heavily involved.
“We had a thorough meeting and discussed how in some areas, they are beginning to see some success. In Kent, for example, the police are treating fly-tipping as a serious crime and are using intelligence, existing legislation and modern technology such as CCTV.
“The real problem that many communities are facing is commercial waste. Where there is development, there is usually fly-tipping. What is clear is that local authorities, the police and the Environment Agency must work together to counter it.
“Much more needs to be done to tackle the dumping of waste in our countryside and towns. We need a forum for dispersal of best practice, a greater national strategy to tackle it and we need to make sure that the police have the powers they need to catch those dumping illegally.”
For further information, please contact Zoë Healy on 0207 984 8096 or 0771 0020566.
More from Booker's Notebook
.... Last week the Environment Agency reported that our waste system is on the verge of breakdown. On July 15, to comply with the EC's landfill directive, 99/31, the vast majority of Britain's 218 landfill sites will be closed to "hazardous waste", leaving only five still open. Vast areas of the country will no longer provide any site licensed to take the two million tons of such waste that we currently bury in ordinary landfill sites - anything from television sets to builders' rubble.
The Environment Agency itself, in the magazine Your Environment, foresees a "nightmare" in the handling of such waste, with "criminals dumping it illegally" in an epidemic of fly-tipping, "lorries crammed full of it clogging the motorways", and even the collapse of the Government's own "brownfield development programme".
Yet this is only a foretaste of the wider crisis that looms as the various elements of the EU's ambitious waste policy begin to impact on each other. In recent years Brussels has produced an avalanche of directives, classifying ever more items as "hazardous waste" - computer screens, asbestos, paints, batteries, old cars, meat products, contaminated soil (see report top right). At the same time it has issued another mass of new laws that make it ever harder to dispose of these things. Next month the two streams of legislation will collide, bringing the system to the point of collapse.
Last summer, as I reported at the time, a committee of MPs warned that this disastrous state of affairs would become even worse when, in the years ahead, most of our remaining landfill sites are forced by the same EU legislation to close down altogether. Theoretically, under EU law, they must be replaced as our chief form of waste disposal by 165 giant incinerators, and many smaller ones. But as the MPs indicated, this would require the installation of at least one new incinerator a week for the next 10 years. There are few signs of this happening.
The chaos that will result next month from the closure of nearly all of our landfill sites to hazardous waste (and according to the Environment Agency, we can soon expect the quantity of such waste to double to four million tons a year) will make the problems created three years ago by the mass-dumping of fridges seem utterly insignificant. It is just a small part of the price we pay for handing over the running of our country to the form of government Mr Blair this weekend seems happy to cement into place.
Defra dumps the onus on us
Mrs Beckett's environment department, it was reported last week, is to impose on farmers and landowners full responsibility for disposing of any rubbish fly-tipped on their land, backed by criminal sanctions. In recent years fly-tipping has exploded across Britain's countryside, But what The Telegraph failed to report was why. Since the power to regulate waste management was handed over by Westminster to Brussels, the EU has issued an avalanche of directives making it ever harder to dispose legally of a whole range of waste, from vehicle batteries, tyres and vehicles themselves to builders' rubble and old fridges, In the past five years this has predictably resulted in a plague of fly-tipping which will only be made worse by the EU's WEEE directive, making it harder to dispose of any electrical or electronic equipment, from spin dryers to computers.
Simultaneously the EU is forcing a move away from rubbish disposal by landfill. This may be fine for the small states which initiated the policy, where land is at a premium. But for Britain, which relies on landfill more than any other EU country, it presents a massive problem. By 2016, under the landfill directive, Britain will be forced to close all but 14 of its current 182 landfill sites (incidentally leaving none at all in the South-East, where Mr Prescott plans another 300,000 homes).
According to the European Environment Agency, the UK will thus have to divert 27 million tonnes a year of biodegradable waste alone from landfill to other means of disposal. According to the Commons environmental select committee, this means the UK will have to instal one large new disposal plant every week for the next 14 years, which is not going to happen. The government plans to meet part of the problem by building 165 giant new incinerators. But these are so unpopular that it will have to override planning rules to impose them by diktat on resentful local communities.
Meanwhile, having created the fly-tipping problem themselves, the officials now propose to dump responsibility for it on the farmers, which is contemptible. But the real crisis is one ministers themselves will eventually be unable to walk away from.
"Also by July a waste crisis will hit the UK when EC directives reduce the number of landfill sites permitted to take "hazardous waste" from 218 to only 10, most of them in the North-East and none in the South-East or Wales. The effect of this will be compounded by the EC's ever-widening definition of "hazardous waste", which now includes paints, old vehicles and electrical equipment such as television sets, computers and mobile phones.
As a spokesman for the Environment Services Association put it last week, with 5 million tonnes of such waste to be disposed of each year and virtually nowhere to put it, "the fridge mountain will pale into insignificance by comparison with what will happen when this directive bites". Already the difficulties surrounding the disposal of old cars created by phase one of the End of Life Vehicles (ELV) Directive have led to hundreds of thousands of vehicles being abandoned - although, as we learned last week, this may soon be an offence for which the owner can lose his licence for life."