Waste Strategy

dudleyowenDeputy's Blog 2017

Ongoing debate on this for the last 20 years at least. Our Mont Cuet hole is fast filling and the policy letter submitted by E & I had the unenviable task of delivering au fait accompli to the States. All aspects of the policy letter that members have been asked to vote on had been decided upon in various different terms preceeding this one.  Three choices, vote for or vote against or abstain. I’m not a fan of asbtaining but where I don’t agree with the strategy that this policy letter seeks to implement – where I would not have agreed to this direction of travel in the first place and whilst there are a couple of elements I am happy with – shipping of waste off-island there are more that I disgaree with:

  • Delegating authority to P&R to approve any increase in costs – therefore not returning to the States to authorise an increase in the approx £290m over 20 years cost of this.
  • The separation of food waste and the increased costs of that.
  • The cost of the MRF plant at £30m down at the Longue Hougue.
  • The emphasis on kerbside recycling.
  • The requirement to adhere to recycling targets

My speech which delivered in favour of the Kuttlewascher Amendment to remove targets and kerbside also covers some of the general points. Many of the Deputies covered areas that I am concerned about therefore my speech is not comprehensive  – no point in repeating what others are saying.

“Sir I have given due consideration to the policy letter as requested by the Committee for Environment & Infrastructure and the States Trading & Supervisory Board and as well as making some general observations, I am speaking today about the Kuttlewascher Mooney Amendment.

Given that these are new Committees with notable attributes: academic capability to research, financial acumen, previous experience of the States and excellent knowledge of the history of this strategy, my expectations were quite high for the proposals which have been put forward.

Fundamentally the plan on which this policy letter is based has some merit and I do agree with many of the points made earlier by both Deputies Kuttlewascher & Roffey.

I am however disappointed with the lack of creativity applied to certain issues we are facing and which are tackled within the proposition. Given that there has been 9mths to look at this matter with input from 7 politicians, 1 non-voting member and supporting officers – not to mention the preceding 14 years to build up to this – I think that on the whole this is a lacklustre and uninspiring proposal, which for me has raised far more questions than it has answered.

There is a lack of detail and background information, which has meant that I have had to spend quite a lot of time asking for answers to my questions from officers, speaking for a long time to a very helpful chap – the Senior Waster Officer – from Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides (no not Wales) – which is another island jurisdiction of comparative size to us in terms of tonnage of waste output. I have also had to do lots of unnecessary ferreting around for the resolutions referred to in the policy letter when extracts could easily have been appended. This is yet another example of a policy letter coming to the States which on format and substance fails the “let’s make it easy for everyone” test.

As a member of the Forest Douzaine and having spoken recently to the St Saviours Douzaine, I know that the Parishes are very concerned about the waste strategy in general, the increase in costs for Parishioners and the complexity of the policies.

They are confused about what is expected of them in the future and the communities they represent and serve – the only thing that is clear is that it will be very expensive. One more point regarding the Parish involvement in the strategy is raised in the policy letter and I query how the centralisation of collection can save a suggested £250k when the Parishes do the work FOR FREE – I fail to see how the replacement of gratis, no strings attached work could save £250k – where does that figure come from? Maybe this point can be explained for me by one of the Presidents of either Committee.

Since the publication of the policy letter, I have spoken to many people and have received representations from concerned islanders who are also worried about the impracticalities of separating and collecting all waste streams, along with the added financial burden that this will bring on their households.

Personally, I am a keen recycler, I watch my buying habits, would prefer to buy 2nd hand than new if I get better value, will fix rather than throw away (my husband loves renovating bicycles – so my last birthday present was a refurbished pushang retrieved from a skip) and as a family we try wherever we can to reuse and reduce our food waste – I have 3 hungry children, 2 dogs, lots of chickens and a field to use with a large compost bin – I am very lucky and also keen to do my bit. Not everyone follows the same rigours that we do or has the access to space as we do. And it is this point which makes me so worried about this policy. Those people who unlike me do not have the space to sort and store all these recyclates to store food waste: meat, fish veg, plate scrapings….all rotting together in the caddies in the summer, in the kitchens and bins outside the back door – this is only possible if you have the space….

One more thing that I would like to hear from the Presidents of the respective Committees is what will be done in the case of non-compliance. In the situation that people refuse to sort their food waste and clog up the MRF. What action will be taken to prevent this from happening – any action will surely increase costs yet again and I envisage that there will be many households who will not sort their food waste as required.

As you may gather, I am not supportive of separating out the food waste with its additional cost, when it is not a requirement by Geminor. Neither am not supportive of the universal kerbside collection of glass – I would like to see the reintroduction of more bring banks, enhanced bring banks – give people the choice.

I see the point in kerbside collection and believe it has merits but if it has to go because it becomes unaffordable for us here in Guernsey I could live with this. The recycling target figures I think are unrealistic and as I am ultimately driven by pragmatism, I can only see that we will be hemmed into letting costs increase in order to achieve these.

One thing that jumps out at me from this policy letter, the joint presentation from the Committees and the message that has come from many of the members is that there closed focus to stick to EU legislation and adhere strictly to waste management best practice.

The EU waste policy has evolved over the last 30 years through a series of environmental action plans and a framework of legislation which aims to reduce negative environmental and health impacts and create an energy and resource-efficient economy. Now that, alongside the easy to understand and common sense Waste Hierarchy, is all very laudable and on the face of it, one will find themselves nodding ones head to agree that this sounds very sensible.

But delve into the huge complex mire that is the EU Legislation on Waste and you will start to see that this was designed and created around the geographies of the member states and cultural habits of their peoples.  Therefore for Guernsey to adhere unnecessarily to the regulations, with the resulting cost shows to me that the policy letter has been coloured by ideology and in my view unachievable aims rather than pragmatic solutions which suit our island home. I am a pragmatist and am only interested in finding pragmatic solutions to our problems.

We should be looking at policies through a lens of austerity and sustainability. With a recognition that gold-plated policies adhering to the non-binding guidelines from the Basel Convention for waste disposal or best practice following EU regulations which are designed for different demographics, cultures and geographies. One very relevant gem of advice from the EU that I absolutely agree with is that Good Waste Management begins with preventing waste from being produced in the first place – after all what is not produced need not be disposed of.

There is no silver bullet no one size fits all and we should be allowing for a flexible system which suits Guernsey and focuses on education of the community and negotiation with business to reduce waste at source.

I will be supporting the Kuttlewascher Amendment today. In short I have not been sold this proposal at all. I have many reservations about the propositions and will listen intently for the magic rabbit which for me needs to be pulled out the hat to persuade me otherwise.”