Some waste sites may be allowed to temporarily exceed their permitted storage tonnages in the event that movements of material are disrupted by a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, Environment Secretary Michael Gove has said.
This was among the details set out by Mr Gove outlining the planning that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is undertaking ahead of the possible scenario of the UK failing to reach agreement with the EU over an exit deal.
In a letter to Lord Teverson, chair of the European Union Energy and Environment Sub-Committee, dated 15 January and published yesterday (29 January), Mr Gove revealed that Environment Agency staff are engaging with operators to identify where issues, including stockpiling may arise.
Particular focus is on the south east of England, which is expected to be hardest hit if waste exports to the European Union are interrupted at Dover, the letter has suggested.
Mr Gove wrote: “The Environment Agency is ready to respond to requests from industry for additional storage of waste and will process any such requests as promptly as it can. In the event of a no deal scenario causing stockpiling, the Environment Agency is able to issue an ‘enforcement position’ to allow waste sites to go over the permitted levels on a temporary case-by-case basis.”
According to the letter, UK regulators have made “substantial progress” in agreeing with EU counterparts that shipments of notified waste which had previously received consent can, in a no deal scenario, continue to be shipped with no requirement for a new application by UK exporters.
Mr Gove explained that regulators have agreed that 77% of notifications to export waste from England to the EU can be rolled-over. This represents 92% of the tonnage of proposed waste from England to the 27 EU member states. Eight member states are yet to agree.
The Environment Secretary said officials are confident that it will be possible to obtain re-approval for the remaining shipments before 29 March 2019.
The Environment Agency has identified that by far the largest single waste stream destined for export to EU countries is refuse derived fuel (RDF), for processing in European waste plants, the letter states.
In the last year, the UK exported around 3.6 million tonnes of RDF to the EU and around 15% of this went via the port of Dover, it adds.
The latest comments from the Environment Secretary follow concerns raised by the industry over exports of waste in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal on March 29.
General concerns over exports have included securing TFS notifications, customs checks, and the general traffic congestion caused by delays at ports (see letsrecycle.com story).
Industry sources have warned that delays in the supply chain could lead to issues with storage, stockpiling, and some of this material is likely to be diverted to landfill.