We all believe that recycling is good for the environment, so it seems obvious that making use of waste rather than just getting rid of it should be encouraged. Yet it is often far from easy to do so because of regulatory controls. Big companies are equipped to cope, as shown by McDonald‘‘s announcement that it will convert its UK delivery vehicles to run on biodiesel produced from its waste cooking oil. But regulatory barriers make it hard for smaller organisations. Poor practice in dealing with waste can damage the environment, so some controls are needed, but how often do they discourage innovative, environmentally beneficial solutions?

The Better Regulation Commission, which has been looking at the regulation of biodiesel, challenges the government, and the Environment Agency (EA) in particular, to look at ways to ease regulatory burdens on small-scale producers that make biodiesel from waste cooking oil. It calls for the regulator to be a champion of progress and enterprise, as well as being a protector.

Finding solutions to the climate change problems caused, in part, by our love affair with the car has become a priority. The road transport fuel obligation target requires 2.5% of renewables in transport fuel from April 2008, which would require about 500,000 tonnes of vegetable oil – equivalent to more than a quarter of the annual total of rape seed oil production in the UK. That target will increase to 5% in 2010.

In these circumstances, it makes good environmental sense to use waste cooking oil to make biodiesel. We produce enough waste cooking oil from catering and food production establishments to meet a fifth of the 2.5% target.

But because waste cooking oil is involved, regulatory controls are many. Vans collecting waste oil must be registered to carry waste; a waste transfer note, with a description of the waste, must be provided and kept for two years; and the person handing over the waste must carry out certain checks on the person or organisation receiving it.

Turning waste cooking oil into biodiesel, even on a small scale, is covered by the pollution prevention and control regulations because the UK has interpreted the term “industrial scale” in the relevant European directive as “for commercial purposes”. This means, for example, that a pub chain of, say, 20 pubs wanting to convert its oil into biodiesel to fuel its couple of vehicles is covered by the same regulations as the UK‘‘s largest (50m litres per year) facility.

A balance is needed between protective controls and over-regulation that inhibits the progress of new ideas. I do not believe that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the EA have that balance right.

We should encourage activities that will benefit the environment. Instead, we are placing regulatory obstacles in the way. Some of these will be necessary, but our challenge to Defra and the EA is to find fast-track ways of removing those that are not.

Ano da Publicação:
WARMER BULLETIN ENEWS #29-2007-July 20, 2007
Kit Strange/Warmer Bulletin
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