I spoke in the adjourned January 2014 States meeting on the proposed waste strategy. I also managed to get the States to agree not to debate an amendment that would have caused extra work for the Public Services Department and voted against a Sursis to look again at landfill. Whilst I have reservations with regard to the costs as set out in the report, I do believe that the basic principles of the strategy still hold good and that we should support the Department’s proposals at this time.
Sir, I would like to speak firstly on behalf of the PAC and then from a personal perspective.
The Committee has reviewed the report from the Public Services Department and has a few observations regarding the content in so far as it concerns financial management and value for money.
Firstly, the Committee welcomes the creation of a Solid Waste Trading Account that brings together the financial reporting for all waste trading management activities. If appropriately implemented, this should increase transparency as well as assisting in maintaining effective financial control. We would expect these benefits to outweigh the incremental costs, in terms of both administration and the additional work required by the States auditors.
Secondly, whilst the cost of delivering the strategy to 2016 now appears clearer, it is disappointing that, despite the fact it has been 2 years since the then States passed the resolution to have PSD report back with full costings to, and I quote; ’ give maximum effect to waste prevention and minimisation measures’, several significant costs are still estimates. Indeed, whilst, the Department seeks to assure Members that it is confident costs will not exceed £29.5m the Committee is concerned that the estimates contain so many contingencies that the actual figures do not reflect realistic and achievable costings from a value for money perspective.
Thirdly, the Committee considers that the adoption of a charging mechanism to pay for ongoing costs, which incorporates both fixed and variable elements, will act as an incentive to ongoing waste reduction, prevent opting out and provide some certainty of income. However, getting the balance right will not be an easy task and the Committee will be interested in reviewing the States report on this aspect when it is published.
Finally, it is evident to the Committee that the entire strategy has many complex aspects to it. Aside from the construction of waste management facilities, a whole new set of processes needs to be implemented. There are therefore significant risks in undertaking this strategy, which need to be managed effectively. Effective project management is therefore critical for successful delivery of the strategy, which, apart from ensuring those with the necessary technical expertise are employed, means effective political oversight throughout the project life both from PSD and T&R.
Speaking personally, I think all the talk of how we deal with our waste is a distraction. Whether we should or should not have had an energy from waste plant, whether we should or should not export our waste, whether or not we should stick it all in a hole. That debate should finish. The biggest waste in all this is the waste of time and money from prolonged debate. We can’t afford that any longer.
We need to focus on the most important part of this strategy, the part of the strategy that will really save money and is something that we all are responsible for – and that is waste minimisation. Each and every one of us has a responsibility to minimise household waste. This is not something we can delegate to government.
I think it is therefore important to have some focus on this aspect today.
Worldwide about one-third of all food produced – equivalent to 1.3 billion tonnes – gets lost or wasted in the food production and consumption systems, according to data released by Food and Agriculture Organsiation of the United Nations and It is estimated that locally we needlessly throw away 2,500 tonnes of food a year. This is at a time when others worldwide living in extreme poverty are starving and back home some in our community are struggling to put food on the table, with food banks witnessing more demand than ever before. This is an appalling state of affairs. It has been calculated that Wasting this food costs the average household in the UK £470 a year, rising to £700 for a family with children. Given the higher average cost of groceries in Guernsey, evidenced in CICRA’s recent report and it is likely to be even worse here.
Best before dates on everything have a lot to answer for. On a recent radio 4 programme a representative from Lee & Perrins said that, if stored properly, a bottle of their world famous Worcestershire Sauce would never spoil and the only reason for a sell by date on it was because it was legally required. This was of some relief to me when I looked at the bottle that was sitting in my cupboard the other day and found it had a best before date of 2010.
I would be delighted if we banned the printing of best before dates here, but appreciate this would not be practical for the supermarkets. We therefore need to educate people about what they mean – to understand food.
We need to increase awareness about the cost of food waste and educate people on how they can minimise what they throw away. I support the LoveFoodHate Waste campaign brought over from the UK, complemented by local initiatives that bring it home to people here how it directly affects them.
On an associate point, I fully understand the reasons behind not wanting to impose charges or legislative requirements on businesses. However, it does concern me that under these proposals, households will have to pay more for unnecessary packaging and, in particular black plastic, which can’t be recycled. As a member of the Commerce and Employment Board I therefore look forward to working with PSD and the commercial sector, to develop workable voluntary initiatives. I would like to see the end of Buy One Get One Free and similar multi-buy offers on perishable goods here. Tesco have stopped this in the UK to tackle food waste and I would like to see pressure put on the local supermarkets to do likewise here.
Whilst I have focussed on waste minimisation I would just like to comment on a few matters relating to recycling.
I fully endorse recommendations 19 and 20 that require event organisers to provide where practicable, recycling facilities, as well as the phasing in of the requirement for States entities, when contracting with event organisers, to ensure that recyclable or compostable food and drink containers are used at events on States-owned land. Already there are events organisers who do take the impact on the environment seriously, including the Vale Earth Fair and other charitable organisations in particular. I should in fact declare an interest as my business has been selling recyclable and compostable tableware for such events for several years. However, there is a long way to go and I believe it is right that government leads by example in this area.
As someone whose garage can end up looking like a full bring bank site at the end of the month, kerbside recycling can’t come soon enough for me. I look forward to the trial starting in St Martin in March and hope it goes well. I am also pleased to see that small businesses will be allowed to participate in the scheme, however, I think the amount of recycling may become an issue for the collectors as, just because a business is small, it does not necessarily translate into small amounts of recycling. I will be interested to see the outcome.
There is still much to do but I support the department in progressing the strategy as set out in this report and encourage other members to support its proposals.