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Waste Management

Volume 408: debated on Thursday 3 July 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to her answer of 17 June 2003, Official Report, column 209W, if she will make a statement on the contents of the register used to provide the information in her answer of 17 March 2003, Official Report, column 506W, and distinguish it from the data held as part of the Environment Agency Register of Waste Management Licences, which are kept under part 2 of the Environment Protection Act 1990. [121997]

The Environment Agency's Register of Waste Management Licences is a list of those who hold waste management licences.The information used in reply to the hon. Member's question of 17 March comes from a separate public register, which contain details of breaches to air emissions limit values. Copies of the breaches are sent to local authorities who also place them on public record.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the (a) impact and (b) timing of changes to UK legislation and the National Waste Strategy arising from changes in EU policy on municipal waste incinerators and waste recovery targets. [121999]

[holding answer 1 July 2003]: Recent cases in the European Court of Justice in relation to the incineration and co-incineration of waste have sought to distinguish between waste recovery and waste disposal operations. I am aware that these recent judgments could have a significant impact on the ability of member states to meet certain recycling and recovery targets, most notably those in the packaging and packaging waste directive (94/62/EC).However, the European Commission is currently reviewing the lists of recovery and disposal operations in the waste framework directive (75/442/EEC as amended) and has begun work in this area with the adoption of the Communication "Towards a thematic strategy on the prevention and recycling of waste" (COM(2003)301) and by launching a study on issues relating to the lists in Annexes IIA and IIB of the Directive. The Government consider that it would be premature to implement any changes to UK legislation and the waste strategy whilst this review is ongoing.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what measures her Department takes to ensure that independent assessments undertaken on behalf of operators of landfill and hazardous waste sites to ascertain the possible risks to public health from activities conducted at the site in question are credible and independent; [122783](2) what measures the Environment Agency takes to ensure that independent assessments undertaken of possible risks posed to public health from activity conducted at a landfill and hazardous waste site are credible and independent; [122784](3) what measures her Department takes to ensure that when the licence of a landfill and hazardous waste site is being reviewed issues of public health are considered; [122785](4) what measures her Department takes to ensure that companies employed by landfill and hazardous waste site operators to produce independent assessments when examining public health issues are impartial and best qualified to undertake the assessments. [122787]

[holding answer 1 July 2003]: The objective of the Waste Framework Directive (75/442/EEC as amended by 91/156/EEC) is to ensure that waste is disposed of without endangering human health or harming the environment (Article 4). The Directive's controls include the need for a permit (licence) for the disposal of waste and are supplemented by the requirements of the Hazardous Waste Directive (91/689/EEC) and the Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC). The Environment Agency is prescribed as a "competent authority" for the purposes of each Directive.Paragraph 2 of Schedule 4 to the Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994 imposes a duty on the Agency to discharge its functions relating to the disposal of waste with regard to the objectives of Article 4 of the Waste Framework Directive. These functions include the issuing of licences for landfill sites and the review of those licences. The purpose of licences and their conditions is to ensure that waste is disposed of without endangering human health or harming the environment.Section 35(8) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 requires the Environment Agency to have regard to guidance issued to it by my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State, in the discharge of its licensing functions. The main guidance issued to the Agency under section 35(8) of the 1990 Act is set out in Waste Management Paper No.4 (ISBN 0–11–752727–0) and deals with issues such as the operator's management systems and quality assurance (paragraphs 4.21–4.25).Subject to these considerations, it rests with the Environment Agency, in fulfilment of its functions as a "competent authority" and having regard to the facts of each case, to reach decisions on the effectiveness and quality of monitoring assessments undertaken by or on behalf of licence holders.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list those industries for which the Government plans voluntary agreements to reduce waste and increase the use of recycled materials and the recyclability of products. [121981]

We will seek to apply voluntary producer responsibility agreements where they are the best option to deliver maximum environmental benefit. We believe the best approach is to assess which waste streams are particularly problematic and might therefore lend themselves most effectively to such agreements; to determine whether the development of such an agreement would be proportionate to the size of the problem; and what the financial and environmental costs and benefits of such agreements would be; and to establish whether the waste streams concerned are already the subject of other mechanisms, including regulations and the work of other organizations, such as WRAP.At present, we have a voluntary producer responsibility agreement in place with the newspaper publishers. We hope shortly to reach agreement with the producers of direct mail and promotions and are talking to the magazine publishers about a possible agreement. Other waste materials which might be suitable for future voluntary agreements with industry are batteries and farm plastics.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list those stakeholders her Department (a) has held discussions with and (b) intends to hold discussions with on a voluntary agreement for the recycling of waste consumer batteries. [121982]

The Government have not yet held any meetings with stakeholders to discuss the development of a voluntary agreement for the recycling of consumer batteries. Key stakeholders have been identified as being producers and importers, other industry representatives, battery reprocessors, including recyclers, local authorities and other battery collectors. The stakeholders will shortly be invited to attend a preliminary meeting to discuss the scope for an agreement.