6 February 2017 by Steve Eminton

Final hearing in sight for waste treatment BREF

UK waste and recycling trade bodies have been given until 14 February to respond to a near final version of a European Best Available Techniques document which will help shape future regulation of the sector. 

The BAT ‘conclusions’ are contained within the Best Available Techniques (BAT) Reference (BREF) Document for Waste Treatment. They will apply to most waste treatment facilities regulated by the Environment Agency and its counterparts in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The JRC building in Seville

The conclusions will apply to the disposal or recovery of hazardous waste with a capacity exceeding 10 tonnes per day involving activities such as recycling or biological treatment. It also covers the disposal of non-hazardous waste with a capacity exceeding 50 (or other) tonnes per day in activities such as biological treatment, shredding of metals/WEEE.

A number of operations do not come under the Bref, such as paper recycling or waste for use in cement kilns. Landfilling is also excluded as this is subject to separate control measures.

It is being compiled by the Joint Research Centre which is the European Commission’s Scientific Service and will be discussed at a final meeting scheduled to take place in Seville from 20-24 March 2017. The work comes under the circular economy and industrial activities of the Commission.


Full implementation in the UK will however be an aspect of the environmental rules which follow or don’t follow the UK’s exit from the European Union.

The wide-ranging document, covers many aspects of waste and recycling activities, ranging from odour management, emissions to water, mechanical treatment of waste, emissions to soil has a number of areas still up for discussion and the UK, through the Agency, has made a number of comments on specific points.

One practical area is ‘roofing of waste storage and treatment areas’. At present this states that ‘waste is stored and treated in covered areas’ to minimise run-off although the point is made that this could be constrained ‘when high volumes of waste are stored or treated’ such as scrap metal for shredding. Trade bodies are understood to have some concerns over this.

The Waste Hierarchy is also to be feature within the Bref document following concerns by some Member States. The Joint Research Centre agrees with respondents, saying that the ‘Waste Hierarchy is an important issue in the waste treatment sector’ and a chapter on the hierarchy is now expected to be included in the document.

The UK, through the Environment Agency, has been one of the commenters previously that the document should clarify that MBT treats mixed solid waste “to avoid any confusion with biological treatments of source-separated biowaste”.

In the latest version of the Bref, the Joint Research Centre, agrees and says: ‘It is indeed important to avoid any confusion between MBT and mechanical pretreatment prior to aerobic or anaerobic treatment.’ The definitions are to be amended accordingly.


There is also discussion in the document of a need to clarify that temporary storage is part of waste treatment activity and to clarify that the BAT conclusions apply to both stand-alone waste management facilities and to the management of waste on installations that carry out other IED activities.

The Joint Research Centre says: ‘Temporary storage of waste is explicitly included in the Scope for hazardous wastes. The BAT conclusions apply to the plants performing the activities listed in the

Scope, regardless of any other activity that may also be performed. Further elaboration does not seem to be necessary.’

However, some comfort for the sector may be drawn from the ‘General considerations of the BAT conclusions’ that “The techniques listed and described in these BAT conclusions are neither prescriptive nor exhaustive. Other techniques may be used that ensure at least an equivalent level of environmental protection.”

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