Deputy Flouquet responds to Deputy Dudley-Owen’s Amendment on the Waste Hierarchy

September 30th, 2010 by Bernard Flouquet

“As Deputy Dudley-Owen said it is a complicated issue that we are discussing here this afternoon although she may have gone somewhat over and beyond the actual amendment itself explaining what the public require from PSD.  I suggest that these are different issues so I will stay clearly within the confines of discussing the actual amendment itself.

Through her amendment Deputy Dudley-Owen has taken to ensure, she said, that the Public Services Department and the Environment Department adopt as their starting point all the principals of the Waste Hierarchy, which members will know has waste prevention as its starting point already, followed by re-use, recycling, recovery and disposal.  In fact the Public Services Department is already committed to using the Waste Hierarchy in its new Strategy formulation.

Most members of the Assembly attended an earlier workshop in May of this year when the importance of the Waste Hierarchy was explained.   This was subsequently confirmed at presentations on the consultation process that were given to various groups over the summer and again at the first stakeholder workshops held at the beginning of this month.

I can assure the assembly that the Department is wholly committed to the principal of the Waste Hierarchy and has no intention of reneging on that commitment.  It is therefore questionable whether Deputy Dudley-Owen’s Amendment is necessary.  There is however a real possibility that this Amendment could actually prevent the best environmental outcome from being achieved in all cases because it is too prescriptive.  I say this because in DEFRA consultation on the transposition of the Waste Framework Directive it is stated that, and I quote “departures from the Waste Hierarchy may deliver better environmental outcomes.  This needs to be justified by Life Cycle thinking.  Whilst the Department would always seek to follow the Waste Hierarchy where ever possible I am personally concerned that the amendment may force us to follow the principles of the Waste Hierarchy in order to comply with the States Resolution when in fact the better environmental solution could be achieved by not adhering to it strictly.  I am sure that no one would want such a situation to arise.  Certainly Deputy Dudley-Owen does not as the explanatory note to her amendment says that measures to be taken to encourage the options that deliver the best overall environmental outcome.  I agree.  I also agree that the Waste Hierarchy has a very important role in achieving such outcomes but it is NOT always the best option in this respect.  And it would be foolish to tie our hands to acceptance of this Amendment particularly as the Environmental Pollution law requires us to deliver the Best Practicable Environmental Options.  Life Cycle Analysis has shown food and garden waste to have a better environmental outcome through anaerobic digestion than other forms of recycling and recovery whilst low grade wood is more suitable for energy recovery than recycling.  DEFRA guidance also states other factors such as sustainability, technical feasibility, economic viability, and protection of resources should also be taken into consideration.  This recommended approach very much mirrors what the department intends to do in so far as it is going to use the Waste Hierarchy in conjunction with other tools such as Life Cycle Analysis where appropriate.

Mr. Bailiff, I touched earlier on the need for the Public Services and Environment Department to deliver the Best Practicable Environmental Options as required by law.   The Amendment does not directly concern the law but with the Environmental Policy Plan, which is where high level policies for waste management are set out.  These high level policies must of course be compatible with the law.  Arguably the amendment is effectively seeking to amend the law by shifting the emphasis from Best Practicable Environmental Option to the Waste Hierarchy.  And here Mr. Bailiff I need to inform the Assembly that the States do not have the power to direct the Departments on how to carry out their respective functions under the law.  Therefore this is a matter of concern that could lead to complications at a later stage when the department brings back proposals that comply with the law, as they must, but might in doing so fail to abide by the terms of the States Resolution – a clear conflict.

The Department is well aware of concerns raised by Deputy Dudley-Owen on many occasions the discussions that have taken place between herself, my staff, myself, my Deputy Minister and also a consultant regarding the consultation and options appraisals processes adopted.

This process is not incompatible with the Waste Hierarchy.  Indeed the draft objectives for the revised Waste Strategy include the following: to endorse the principal of the Waste Hierarchy, which focuses on waste minimisation; to consider all waste streams, and identify the most appropriate methods to manage them in accordance with the Waste Hierarchy.

While these will be subject to some refinement through the workshops, there has been no suggestion that such refinement will include any move away from the Waste Hierarchy itself.  In light of this, it is difficult to see what value this Amendment will add to the process that has already begun, and I must say has begun very successfully.

There is a danger however that it has the potential to confuse and complicate matters thereby causing a delay to the process.  It will also potential prove too restrictive and could make it impossible to deliver the Best Practicable Environmental Options as required by law.   I know that Deputy Dudley-Owen and the supporters of her Amendment consider it to be nothing more than a belt and braces approach designed to ensure that the Public Services and Environment Departments do not lose sight of the Waste Hierarchy when developing the new strategy.  Were the issues straightforward I would have no hesitation, no hesitation whatsoever in supporting such an Amendment.  However on looking closely on its possible effects, albeit I am sure unintentional, I believe that there is significant potential for the Amendment, if accepted, to have repercussions for the acceptance of the Waste strategy, as it could prove difficult, if not impossible to deliver a strategy that both meets the requirements of the Environmental Pollutions Law as well as satisfying the States Resolution – again a direct conflict.

Notwithstanding this, I note that Deputy Dudley-Owen’s amendment refers to all the principals of the Waste Hierarchy as developed from the Waste Framework Directive, and I therefore understand that it is intended to refer to all of Article 4 of the Directive including the following parts of Article 4 and I shall quote them.

1.  When applying the Waste Hierarchy Member States shall take measures to encourage the options that deliver the best overall environmental outcome.  This may require specific waste streams departing from the Waste Hierarchy when this is justified by Life Cycle thinking and the overall impacts of the generation and management of such waste.

2.  Member States shall take into account the general environmental protection principals of precaution and sustainability, technical feasibility, and economic viability, protection of resources, as well as overall environmental, human health, economic and social impacts in accordance with articles 1. and 13.

As I mentioned before this recognises that in a given case it may not be the best option to adhere rigidly to the Waste Hierarchy, and to use this as the only tool in developing a waste strategy.  For example, recycling may not always be a better practicable environmental option than disposal.  I believe that this would give us considerable ….  While I consider that it would be preferable to leave the Environmental Plan unamended, I would like to ask Deputy Dudley-Owen if she would give the Assembly an unequivocal assurance that her Amendment is intended, indeed intended to accomplish all of Article 4 then I believe this would be a reasonable compromise.  If however such assurance is not forthcoming I have no option but to urge this Assembly to reject this Amendment.   Thank you Sir.”

The above transcript of Deputy Flouquet’s response to Deputy Dudley-Owen’s Amendment on the Waste Hierarch is available as a 9 mb MP3 audio file

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