11 January 2001

Agency confirms special waste controls for photo waste

The Environment Agency has reaffirmed that photographic waste is Special Waste and has this week updated its guidance to this effect.

The revised guidance – in the form of a Special Waste Explanatory Note (SWEN) – and is response to industry concerns about the classification of photographic fixer and developer as special waste. Some businesses have invested and registered under the regulations whereas others had not.

The Agency says it has consistently advised such wastes meet the definition of Special Waste since the introduction of the Special Waste Regulations 1996 (SWR96).

A statement from the agency says that legal responsibility for classification and handling waste, including Special Waste, lies solely with the producer. The Agency has made its internal guidance on photographic wastes available to the industry since January 2000 and this guidance was in the form of a Special Waste explanatory note (SWEN 068) and has been further updated to clarify the Agency’s position.

Following a number of tests conducted, and papers presented, by the photographic industry, the Agency reviewed its position. This involved conducting a series of rigorous and robust tests, which have fully reaffirmed the Agency’s initial evaluation and satisfied the industry.

The Agency notes that some within the industry have questioned the use of additional risk phrases to determine whether a waste is Special Waste, even where a primary risk phrase was not been assigned. The argument that a substance could not be ascribed an additional risk phrase without also being assigned a primary risk phrase is supported in “Special Wastes: A Technical Guidance Note on their Definition and Classification” (the Technical Guidance Note or TGN) Volume 1, Chapter 5, para 5.7.1.

The Environment Agency has amended SWEN 068 to reflect the results of the tests and to confirm its original evaluation. The revised SWEN reiterates the position of the Environment Agency with regard to the use of additional risk phrases in determining whether wastes are Special Wastes.

Tony Gubby, the agency’s special waste process manager said:
“We have listened to the concerns of some members of the industry, looked again at our assessment and found it fundamentally sound. Now, we must be fair to those companies who have always classified these wastes as Special and ensure everyone does so.”

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