On Tuesday (16th September 2008) a meeting, organised by Friends of the Earth, took place in London, bringing together a small group of waste activists and a couple of Defra officials. Although the meeting was held on the understanding that names and other details would not be reported, UKWIN can reveal that the exchange was worthwhile.

Campaigners heard of Defra’s current focus, including addressing issues such as:

  • LATS beyond 2011, and landfill beyond the ‘landfill escalator’ (i.e. ever-increasing landfill taxes)
  • Achieving landfill diversion targets (2010 and 2013+)
  • The Climate Change bill
  • Incentivising recycling and reuse (for householders)
  • Importing good practice
  • Voluntary agreements (e.g. to reduce wasteful packaging)
  • Local Area Agreement waste reduction targets

Campaigners raised a whole host of complex issues, such as the:

  • Need for more ambitious waste recycling rates and targets
  • Perverse outcomes (e.g. over-provision of waste incinerators) that arise from inaccurate projections of future waste arisings
  • Need for waste management methods to be judged and ranked in relation to climate impacts (accompanied by a recognition of the need to include biogenic carbon in these calculations)
  • Lack of clear lead from Government in the wake of the EA’s rescinding of IPPC permits in Hull and Newhaven
  • Differences between England and other parts of UK, e.g. EA and SEPA (SEPA puts in planning objections as consultees on planning, e.g. in cases where heat capture cannot be demonstrated, or where size cannot be justified in relation to other existing and/or proposed waste facilities).
  • Bottom ash eco-toxicity
  • Persistent confusion and misleading oversimplification of the terms ‘energy from waste’ and ‘energy recovery’
  • Need for an incineration tax, a tax on virgin materials, a cap on incineration and legislation to ensure that incinerator feedstock is limited to ‘genuinely residual waste’, to prevent further situations where both household and commercial waste that should be recycled or composted is instead burnt in incinerators
  • Profound concerns about PFI contracts (such as those expressed recently by Norman Baker)
  • Lack of compliance with Defra guidelines regarding achieving consensus amongst stakeholders before Waste PFIs are signed
  • Consideration of the wisdom or otherwise of reuse of bottom ash as a priority for deregulation and of reclassifying it as a post-waste material
  • Importance of separation in all aspects of household, Commercial & Industrial, and Construction & Demolition waste collection and treatment and the need for much stronger steer from Defra to encourage this
  • Value of feedback on fate of collected waste resources in building ‘brand identity’ for reused and recycled materials and processes (coupled with the notion that the ‘brand’ that is recycling could be improved or tarnished depending on policies and how they are enacted)
  • Concern at slow progress in cleaning up waste streams, particularly removal of hazardous material such as batteries and separate collection of materials amenable to biological treatment
  • Need to make public more aware that hazardous materials mixed in general waste will result in more hazardous gaseous or solid emissions from any waste treatment process
  • Marginalization of waste planning process, given that Waste Contracts, which are not open to pubic scrutiny, have become de facto waste plans
  • Exclusion of public from Jouint Municipal Waste Managment Strategy process and need to enforce guidance on community engagement.

Some additional specific questions were left for Defra to consider, including:

  • What is Defra’s opinion of Eunomia’s report “A Changing Climate for Waste”?
  • What is Defra’s opinion of the ATROPOS modelling tool developed by Eunomia?
  • Does Defra agree that the discounting of greenhouse gas emissions from incinerating biogenic waste should be reviewed and possibly discontinued? If not, what methodology is Defra using to satisfy itself that new vegetative growth is occurring at a rate sufficient to take up greenhouse gas emissions as fast as they are emitted by the incineration of biogenic waste?
  • Does Defra agree in principle that the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is now so critical that every opportunity should be taken to support technologies and policies which reduce nett emissions and help carbon sequestration?
  • Has Defra discussed with the Treasury a graduated landfill tax to support carbon sequestration through the landfill of stabilised waste? If not, why not?
  • Does Defra agree in principle that all incinerators, regardless of the mix of feedstock, should be included in the carbon accounting scheme as proposed in the Climate Change Bill, and held fully accountable for all their emissions?
  • What measures and incentives should be introduced to encourage local food waste composting by schools and hospitals?

It should be noted that while some of these issues were discussed in more depth, others were raised briefly in the hope that Defra may respond in due course. We intend to follow up the meeting with an e-mail message, so if there are any further issues you would like us to raise, just let us know. To discuss the meeting please contact the UKWIN Coordinator

2 Responses to “Discussions with Defra”

  1. Thanks for raising these issues with Deffra.
    One question:

    Estimates of impact of recession on waste types and quantities, and how this is being factored into policy and investments

    Are incinerators flexible in terms of reduced feedstocks? Or do they require a commitment to keep waste coming in at a certain level?

    Vicky Moller (incineration is now proposed by Pembrokeshire County Council, for 3 counties in WestWales)

    Presuming that only the lowgrade plastic is a genuine waste, without a market, are there figures for the quantity being produced, ie weight and size once compacted?

    What is wrong with storing waste plastic in the ground? (Carbon sequestring, where it came from, possible future resource, non-toxic?)

    Is there any way to permit all food wastes including cooked food to be composted (as we have done for 40 years). Is this done somewhere?

    Ignore boring or irrelevant questions, thanks for your time.
    01239 820971

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