Consultation on the appropriate measures for the biological treatment of waste

The Environment Agency welcomes contribution from the industry with their consultation on the appropriate measures for the biological treatment of waste. The EA suggest that their proposed guidance will help inform operators of which appropriate measures are relevant to biological treatment facilities.

The Environment Agency (EA) are seeking comments on the proposed amendments to the ‘appropriate measures’ for the biological treatment of waste at permitted facilities. These changes will apply to all new and existing facilities with environmental permits used to treat organic waste (e.g. compost (aerobic and in-vessel), mechanical biological treatment (MBT), waste-water treatment plants and anaerobic digestion (both wet and dry) plants). In addition to these changes, BAT will also be enforced from August 2022.

The key drivers for these stricter controls are to reduce serious accidents/incidents within the sector and to improve local air quality.

There will be an increased focus on written management systems with a closer alignment to the requirements of ISO14001, and operational procedures (particularly pre-acceptance checks for bulk liquids) as well as strict assessment and compliance with HAZOP, DSEAR & COMAH Regulations.

New Leak Detection And Repair (LDAR) Plans will be required by all facilities to identify, measure and minimise fugitive emissions from all point and area sources onsite. Sufficient resources will be expected to be made available to remediate all low-cost measures within 12 months. All organic wastes must now be covered to prevent emissions (e.g. ammonia). This applies to all new and existing plants currently in operation.

Continuous monitoring of all pressure relief valves (PRVs) and similar devices will now be required to record date, time and event duration on SCADA. Odour and emission abatement systems will have to undergo increased performance monitoring to prove efficacy and to ensure they remain effective at all times, supported by a robust inspection and maintenance programme undertaken by suitably qualified and competent staff.

Wiser Environment encourages all those who operate within – or are affected by – the biological treatment industry to contribute to the consultation. The EA’s consultation on the appropriate measures for the biological treatment of waste will be available until the 21st of August. For those who would like Wiser Environment to submit a response on their behalf, then contact us or call on 01480 462232.

China’s Solid Waste Law to come into effect in 2021

China’s upcoming ban on solid waste imports is set to be made law. The Bureau of International Recycling suggests that an amendment to the ‘Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Prevention and Control of Solid Wastes Pollution to the Environment’ will provide further clarification to the waste import ban. Wiser Environment concurs that the ban is likely to impact waste management costs and logistics, and industry managers should stay informed.

The Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) – has reported that China will officially ban the import of solid waste from 2021. Using their source within the Ministry of Ecology and Environment of the People’s Republic of China, BIR suggest that China will put its import ban into law with an amendment to the ‘Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Prevention and Control of Solid Wastes Pollution to the Environment’.

Wiser Environment Meeting with Vietnam Industry Leaders

Wiser Environment meeting with Vietnam industry leaders in the Thái Nguyên Province.

BIR expects further legislative clarification to come in by September 2020. Hopefully, this will provide guidance on the solid waste identification process and alternative measures.

Since 2017, China has continually voiced its intentions to reduce the import of foreign waste. In response, UK waste exporters have had to readjust supply chains and find alternative channels. Wiser Environment understands that waste exporters are diverting their shipment to nearby Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam; supporting Vietnam’s growing demand for recyclable materials.

The UK Environment Bill is also putting pressure on waste exporters. This is because the Environment Bill introduces new restrictions to exporting plastic waste to countries outside the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED). At this time, the UK Public Bill Committee is examining the details of the Environment Bill. The Committee is set to release their next update in September. Wiser Environment expects that the Environment Bill will encourage the development of UK waste management facilities and this will help satiate the need to export.

Stay updated

China’s Solid Waste Law compounds the already increasing cost and complexity of waste management. Therefore, Wiser Environment believes that it is important that industry managers stay informed. The team at Wiser has extensive experience in waste legislation and supply chain management and is ready to provide waste businesses with support. For more information contact Wiser Environment or call on 01480 462232.

National Permitting Service delays set to continue into 2021

As the National Permitting Service continues to adapt to the COVID-19 new-normal, the team at Wiser Environment have been taking proactive steps. In response to Environment Agency permit application delays, the Wiser Environment permitting team have taken the following actions: maintain high-quality permit submissions, effective regulator communication and hold the Environment Agency to account.

In March 2020, Wiser Environment first raised concerns about delays emitting from the National Permitting Service (NPS) of the Environment Agency (EA). At that time the primary cause for the delay was that the EA was having difficulty organising their remote teams.

As Wiser rightfully predicted, permit applications began to bottleneck at the duly making and determination stages. For example, many of Wiser’s clients saw turn-around times for “Duly Making” application submissions increase by 8 weeks. In response to the NPS slowdown, businesses began to maintain their compliance via local area agreements.

Originally, Wiser Environment’s sources were confident that these NPS delays would be temporary and by June they would be back up to speed. As the whole industry moves towards a new-normal, it is clear that NPS delays are likely to persist until 2021.

Permit application determination times

Sources confirm that the EA is set to operate with a reduced workforce or overall reduced working hours for the next 6 months. The intention here is to limit the number of officers working from home and avoid overloading the EA IT systems. In a COVID-19 statement, the EA confirms the situation:

“Whilst we’re making every effort to maintain our permitting service, it’s inevitable that there will be some disruption as we work in unprecedented circumstances. We are taking slightly longer than normal to determine permit applications in some of our permitting sectors, but are continuing to adapt our working to reduce these wherever we can and as quickly as possible.”

Wiser Environment understands that the EA is in a tough place. With the intention of improving this unfavourable situation for waste businesses, Wiser has taken the following proactive action.

G Webb's alternative measure fire prevention plan

An alternative measure fire prevention plan authorised by the EA during COVID-19.

Proactive action to improve turnaround times

Firstly, the Wiser Environment permitting team has maintained their high-quality permit application submissions. The aim here is to make the EA’s role in the permit application process as easy as possible. With strong attention to detail, permit applications and supporting documents produced by Wiser on behalf of our clients are comprehensive. Using their practical knowledge and a risk-based approach, the Wiser permitting team prides themselves on successfully achieving permit applications for clients. Even during the height of COVID-19, Wiser was still able to get permit applications determined and accepted.

The second proactive action Wiser Environment implemented to ensure that NPS delays are limited is to work closely with determining officers. A longstanding practice of Wiser’s is to effectively communicate with the EA throughout the permit application process. Liaising with the regulator in this way gives them the opportunity to raise concerns ahead of time – speeding up the permit application process. Effective communication also allows the Wiser permitting team to provide the EA with clarity and direction; eliminating confusion and needless stalling.

The third and most impactful action is to influence senior roles within the EA by representing clients and waste operators during meetings. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, Wiser Environment’s Directors have been holding frequent meetings with EA senior management. In these meetings, Wiser holds the EA to account and pushes for better regulation.

Wiser Environment is ready and available to help support the waste and resource industry in recovering from the COVID-19 setback. In cooperation with clients, Wiser can produce comprehensive permit applications that have a high chance of being successful. Furthermore, Wiser’s senior and experienced consultants can represent waste businesses and ensure they receive the regulation they need. For more information contact Wiser Environment or call on 01480 462232.

Expiry dates for COVID-19 regulatory position statements

To minimise COVID-19 related disruption to the environment and human health, the Environment Agency has published a catalogue of temporary regulatory position statements. Upon evaluation, many of these time-limited statements have had their expiry dates extended. Wiser Environment has reviewed each COVID-19 regulatory position statements and listed their expiry date. To make the most of these regulatory position statements and maintain compliance, contact the team at Wiser Environment.

Documented in the Environment Agency’s (EA) response to COVID-19, the regulator asserts that their “priority is to protect people and the environment and to support those we regulate.” In acknowledgement of the significant COVID-19 challenges the waste and resource industry faces, the EA published a collection of regulatory position statements (RPS) that provide operators with some compliance wiggle room. For example, the RPS C2 allows waste sites to exceed their waste storage limits if they are unable to remove the waste due to COVID-19.

As the industry gradually moves towards traditional normality, the EA plans to review each of their COVID-19 RPSs. If the regulator determines that an RPS is still needed, then they will extend the expiry date. However, the EA does explicitly state that it is the operator’s responsibility to check if an RPS is still applicable. To help support operators, Wiser Environment has reviewed each RPS and created an accessible table to highlight expiry dates.

Expiry dates for COVID-19 regulatory position statements

RPS NumberDescriptionExpiry Date
RPS C1Cleansing and PPE waste at a healthcare waste management facility31/03/2021
RPS C2Exceeding waste storage limits at permitted sites because of COVID-1930/09/2020
RPS C3Water and Sewerage Company OSM and UWWTR sampling affected by COVID-1930/09/2020
RPS C4Incinerating specified healthcare wastes at a municipal waste incinerator30/06/2020
RPS C5PPE waste from home healthcare workers treating patients with COVID-1931/03/2021
RPS C6Storing treated sewage sludge you cannot move because of COVID-19 restrictions30/09/2020
RPS C7Monitoring emissions from some environmental permitting activities30/09/2020
RPS C8Social distancing when signing and handing over waste transfer and consignment notes in person31/03/2021
RPS C9COVID-19 and packaging waste: registering as a packaging producer08/07/2020
RPS C10Reporting for installations, radioactive substances and waste permits30/09/2020
RPS C11Emissions to air from large combustion plant during black start events31/07/2020
RPS C12COVID-19 and spreading slurry or milk on land, or storing slurry30/09/2020
RPS C13Accumulating radioactive waste that you cannot transfer because of COVID-1931/03/2021
RPS C14COVID-19 and delaying hazardous waste consignee returns31/07/2020
RPS C15COVID-19 and exceeding permit limits for medical use of radioactive substances31/03/2021
RPS C17COVID-19 and storing waste at unpermitted sites due to exceeding your storage limits30/09/2020
RPS C18Emissions to air from Large Combustion Plant in the Transitional National Plan30/11/2020
RPS C20Monitoring emissions from some environmental permitting activities31/01/2021

Maintain compliance

The Wiser Environment team is available to help operators maintain compliance. These COVID-19 RPSs can help protect permitted operations and put businesses in the best place possible to survive the crisis. For more information or assistance with utilising an RPS, please contact Wiser Environment or call on 01480 462232.