HL Deb 27 February 1975 vol 357 cc993-5

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps are being taken to expedite research in the United Kingdom into the conversion of contaminated oil waste and sludge into compost of value to agriculture.


My Lords, a Working Group has recently been considering the disposal problems caused by oil waste and sludge and their potential for reuse. The findings of the Working Group will shortly be made available to the Waste Management Advisory Council who will wish to consider the need for further research. At present, there appears to be greater scope for recovering oil waste as oil, or for burning it as fuel, than for composting the waste for agricultural purposes.


My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that Answer, may I ask her whether she is aware that considerable research has already taken place in Sweden by a professor and a team who are investigating the matter of converting this hazardous waste into something useful from the point of view of agriculture? Will she, or the committee she has set up, take into consultation those who are already working on the schemes in Sweden and Holland?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, until my noble friend brought it to my attention I was not aware of this scheme of research, nor indeed is the Ministry of Agriculture. The principles upon which it appears to be based are well known, and I shall draw the report to the attention of my right honourable friend. The Waste Management Advisory Council will be considering this matter; it has it in hand.


My Lords, while new methods of fertilising and composting are obviously extremely desirable for use in agriculture, would not the Government be better concerned in allowing agriculture to play the full part that it could play in relieving the balance of payments, instead of subjecting it to penal systems of taxation?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, that is an entirely different question.


My Lords, would my noble friend take into consideration the fact that the investigations in Sweden have already resulted in very satisfactory results, and have produced an enormous amount of benefit? Consequently, will she, or the committee that has been set up, get in touch with those who have already completed their researches in certain directions?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, there are a great many problems attached to this matter which I shall not go into today. As I have already assured my noble friend, it is being looked into.


My Lords, would my noble friend agree that probably the most important aspect here is the recycling of the oil, and that if this is done properly very little residue is left? Will she consider whether it might then be economical to convert it?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, this is in fact the line on which the problem is being dealt with at the present time.


My Lords, my noble friend says that this matter is being looked into. Can she let us know which body, committee, or department is doing the looking?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, the Waste Management Advisory Council, which was set up last year, has taken in this and all sorts of other forms of waste and re-cycling.


My Lords, may I ask the Minister whether the Working Group has taken into consideration the quite extraordinary way in which North African oil companies are using waste to fertilise the desert, and whether that might not be an example for this country?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, I shall bring it to the attention of my friends who are concerned with this. I should point out that the Advisory Council has been working for only a few months, and therefore it is at the beginning of its deliberations. Any points such as those now being made will be of enormous help.