DEFRA considers removing exemptions

DEFRA is proposing to limit the number of waste exemptions that any one operator can register or potentially remove exemptions completely in the latest industry consultation launched last month.

In January, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) published proposals to tackle waste crime in England and Wales, blaming criminal activity and poor performance in the waste industry for undermining efforts to improve resource efficiency

Currently, there are 59 types of exemptions, 57 regulated by the Environment Agency and National Resources Wales and two by local authorities.

DEFRA proposes to either limit the number of exemptions that an operator can register at a single location to three for waste operations and eight for agriculture, or alternatively completely remove exemptions and expand the standard rules permit rule set to encompass the exemption processes.

Under the proposals to limit exemptions, exempt activities will not be allowed to be registered and operated within a permitted area. If exemptions are registered by an operator and operated outside the permitted area but are in conjunction with operations in the permitted area, this will not be allowed. Either the permit should be varied to include these activities or the exempt operations should cease. Exception to this would be if the exemption covered waste that had been produced by the operator.

Proposals follow a 2016 study of various types of exemptions by the Environment Agency which suggested that 30% of 589 sites were being run illegally.

The consultation closes on 15th March. Responses can be given here.

DEFRA proposes to make it harder to obtain permits

In the latest industry consultation, DEFRA is proposing to raise the standard of operator competence, potentially making it much harder to obtain a good OPRA rating and a permit.

Last month, we advised that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) opened a consultation into proposals to tackle waste crime in England and Wales. Blaming criminal activity and poor performance in the waste industry for undermining efforts to improve resource efficiency, DEFRA is looking at how the UK could achieve the ambition of becoming a world leader in resources efficiency and resource productivity with zero avoidable waste by 2050.

Following an in depth review of the consultation we can advise that DEFRA is aiming to raise the standard of operator competence at permitted sites by proposing the following steps:

  • Widening the scope of offences, behaviour and relevant persons that the regulators can take account of when assessing competence
  • Requiring all permitted waste operators to manage and operate in accordance with a more robust written management system
  • Requiring all permitted waste operators, and therefore all Technically Competent Managers, to demonstrate a high standard of technical knowledge of their waste site
  • Requiring the operator of any permitted site to be financially capable of running their waste business and provide financial security

With a greater focus on operator competence, these steps will change the operational risk appraisal (OPRA). To take these in to account, the Environment Agency proposes to widen the definition of relevant offences that are searched and reviewed at the point of application submission. This will enable regulators to gather the correct level of information about individuals, which will not be restricted to relevant offences within the waste sector, and as a result greatly impact the OPRA score of a site or prevent operators form obtaining permits.

The consultation closes on 15th March. Responses can be given here.

Reuse of waste affected by reclassification

From this summer, changes to the classification of certain wastes could potentially prevent their reuse or result in the requirement for greater pre-treatment.

The reuse of waste materials is a frequent practice in several industries, for example, reusing excavated soil and rock at construction sites has known environmental, economic and social advantages. This reuse of materials is affected by its classification as hazardous or non-hazardous and, the interpretation of the analytical results can be tricky.

On 8th June 2017 Council Regulation (EU) 2017/997 was released amending Annex III to Directive 2008/98/EC which lists properties of waste which render it hazardous. The change involves the classification of wastes as ecotoxic (hazardous property 14, or HP14) i.e. waste that presents immediate or delayed risks to the ecosystem.

The regulation lays out the calculations to be used to interpret analytical results when assessing this hazardous property of waste. Whilst the aim is to harmonise the classification within the EU, the regulation may mean that some waste that was previously classified non-hazardous is now considered hazardous and therefore can no longer be reused without further treatment.

This Regulation will apply from 5th July 2018. For more information or to find out if this applies to you, please contact Andrea Petrolati on 01480 462 232.