17 March 2021 by Joshua Doherty

Agency doubles down on ‘enclosed building’ rule

The Environment Agency has published a response document to a consultation it ran last year on appropriate measures for waste facilities, reiterating that running waste activities within a building is “clearly an appropriate measure”.

The default option for a waste and recycling site is likely to be inside a building (picture: Shutterstock)

The Agency ran a consultation between September and November 2020 on a draft guidance document it published on appropriate measures for permitted facilities.

This included a default rule that which could see more waste operations having to take place in an “enclosed building”, which caused great concern in the waste sector (see letsrecycle.com story).

The response document explained that respondents to the consultation cited the enclosed building rule as a “significant concern”, raising issues around planning permission, cost and environmental impact.

While the EA  “acknowledged” concerns raised, it said “when designed properly”, buildings help with a wide range of emissions.

Response

The Agency has said throughout that the proposed regulations are not mandatory or definitive, but look to “frame the discussion and act as a starting point we will have with the operator”.

“Operating waste management activities within a building is clearly an appropriate measure”

Environment Agency

It has said the guidance wouldn’t mean that every waste activity would have to be enclosed, but an operator would “have regard to our guidance and make a compelling justification as to what is being done” instead.

The Agency said in the response document that the effect of enclosed buildings has been demonstrated through studies involving particulate monitoring at sites with and without buildings and is a specific BAT conclusion.

“We are seeing an increasing number of waste management facilities operating within buildings through the planning and permitting process,” the EA added.

The repose document added that if there is a risk of or an ongoing impact from a waste activity on people and the environment which cannot be addressed through alternative measures, then a building must be considered.

In higher risk areas, for example in an Air Quality Management Zone, or in heavily populated areas, an enclosed building with abatement is “more likely to be an appropriate measure when compared to waste activities taking place away from sensitive receptors”, the Agency added.

Demonstrate

The response document explained that some respondents wanted clarity on how they would be required to demonstrate their alternative measures manage the pollution risk from their waste activities.

In response, the EA said when assessing appropriate measures “we expect operators to review their risk assessment. Operators should continually review the effectiveness of their measures. Substantiated complaints and pollution incidents indicate that measures are not working”.

Legality 

In November, UROC  responded to the Environment Agency’s appropriate measures proposals by suggesting that they are “unlawful” and would be putting independent waste management businesses at risk (see letsrecycle.com story).

Addressing this, the Agency said: “We apply BAT to installations and ‘necessary measures’ to waste operations and exemptions, generically being described as ‘appropriate measures’. Article 13 of the Waste Framework Directive requires Member States to take the necessary measures to ensure that waste management is carried out without endangering human health and without harming the environment.

“As required by the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2016, the Environment Agency must exercise its relevant functions, including implementing Article 13 of the Waste Framework Directive (WFD), amongst other provisions”

Guidance

The Agency guidance document came on the back of the development of the European waste management BREF which covers the installations of a number of hazardous and non-hazardous treatments.

The guide was seen as implementing the BREF and the concept of BAT, best available techniques.

Pre-acceptance

Waste from skips is ‘essentially pre-accepted’ by the terms and conditions of the contract

While the enclosed building guidance caused the greatest concern in the sector, other measures were also included in the guide.

For example, the guidance says operators must implement waste pre-acceptance procedures so that enough is known about a waste (including its composition) before it arrives.

The pre-acceptance procedures must follow “a risk-based approach, considering the source and nature of the waste, potential risks to process safety, occupational safety and the environment  and knowledge about the previous waste holders”.

The Agency said some respondents said current waste transfer notes “were sufficient for waste pre-acceptance, acceptance and tracking”, while another said this effectively “ruled out waste received on an ad hoc basis”.

In response, the Agency said waste transfer notes alone cannot satisfy pre-acceptance, acceptance or waste tracking, adding  that “pre-acceptance checks are important in making sure waste ends up at the right place”.

Ad-hoc

The response document added that the guidance was not written to stop ad hoc waste deliveries.

It said in the case of household and similar non-household waste (including skip waste) the waste is essentially pre-accepted by the terms and conditions of the contract in place (for example skip waste companies excluding fridges and freezers or hazardous wastes).

However, there should also be a visual pre-acceptance check before waste is removed from the producer’s premises.

Respondents

A total of 61 respondents were made to the consultation, with coming from site operators, trade associations, consultants, local authorities and one from the public.

Related links
Non-hazardous and inert waste: appropriate measures for permitted facilities summary of consultation responses

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