Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Fridge Dumping a Feeding Ground for Euro Sceptics

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Fridge Dumping a Feeding Ground for Euro Sceptics

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRISTOPHER HUHNE

EVERY day, lorries roll up to a large field near the town of Havant, Hampshire, and dump old fridges and fridge-freezers. This scene, like something out of a 1960s French arthouse movie, is repeating itself across the Home Counties.

It is one of the most monumental policy cockups of our times.

Nothing can stop these fridge mountains. Given that more than two million such items are thrown out annually in Britain, our euro sceptic tabloid Press will be enjoying its best copy in decades by the summer. With luck, the towers of white goods will also lead to a fundamental rethink on how to approve European Union rules.

There is everything right with the law's objectives - to remove the liquid coolant and foam from fridge walls before destroying them.

Pre-1995 fridges contain chlorofluorocarbons that are the most damaging pollutants of the ozone layer. If the ozone layer continues to thin and develop unpredictable holes, the consequences will include sharp rises in skin cancer. The EU directive is in line with our commitments under the Montreal protocol on ozone-depletion.

The problem is that one Whitehall hand does not appear to have known what the other was doing. When a British minister approved the directive, no-one had examined whether we had the wherewithal to handle the fridge disposal.

This was particularly difficult for Britain, since the directive also bans export of CFC-polluting fridges. We used to sell about a third of our old coolers to West Africa.

Britain's retailers used to collect old fridges when they supplied new ones and warned the Government two years ago that there would be problems.

Several EU countries whose officials were on the ball - such as Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands - have had no such difficulties with implementation. They have the fridge-munching machinery necessary to dispose of them without releasing CFCs.

Unfortunately, the first such machine will only start operating here in the summer. But the directive came into force in January, hence the fridge mountains.

Not surprisingly, Whitehall has been keen to load the problem on to others. …

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