27 March 2000
Waste directive catches out industry

By FWi staff

POLITICIANS and farmers leaders have been caught on the hop by a new European waste incineration directive which could land farmers with a hefty bill.

Under the rules, thousands of farmers face large bills for running incinerators registered under British law to burn fallen stock and plastics on their property.

According to the National Farmers Union, some producers could face bills of hundreds of thousands of pounds to pay for alternative disposal methods.

Politicians and farm unions now admit that they should have acted earlier to try to get Britain exempted from this law, which is due to come into effect soon.

Caroline Jackson, Tory MEP for the South West, said the first she heard of the legislation was when a pig-farmer neighbour drew it to her attention.

But she would have expected warning from the Department of the Environment or Ministry of Agriculture, she told Radio 4 Farming Today.

“I certainly should have known about it, but since the DETR and MAFF didnt know about it themselves, I think its a bit odd to expect an MEP to find out about it, all by herself.

“This is something where we rely on the government and the farming unions to give us due notice, and they have had two years.

Ben Gill, NFU president, said he thought the DETR were handling the issue. He claimed the department didnt pursue it after receiving incorrect information.

“We were under the impression that DETR was going to handle this and were given assurances that this was all under control. We assumed these things were being done.

“It seems they did not carry out what they were going to do, and brought in a consultant who suggested there were only 60 incinerators and gave them false information.”

He admitted: “With the benefit of hindsight we can always do things better.”

Mr Gill said the incinerators had good track record in emissions and were mostly environmentally neutral. The union would fight the directive, he added.

Peter Riley, of the environmental group Friends of the Earth, said that the directive should have come as no great surprise.

“Its been obvious that waste management legislation is going to be applied to agriculture for some considerable time,” he said.

“If the farming communitys been taken by surprise, I think they need to be a little more in tune with whats going on in Brussels.”

The DETR said that the bill for the levy has been overestimated by the NFU and said it would look at ways of minimising the costs for farmers.