23 November 2020 by Robyn White

UROC slams ‘unlawful’ enclosed building proposals

UROC has 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.

The EA proposals have already caused concern with other companies, as it looks to see more waste operations having to take place in an “enclosed building”.

Jenny Watts, UROC CEO, described the measures as “unlawful”

The Agency consultation guidance document, which opened for consultation in September, was produced to “improve the way permitted facilities in the non-hazardous and inert waste sector are operated and designed” (see letsrecycle.com story).

‘Nonsense’

In response to the EA’s open consultation, which closed on 18 November, UROC stated that the requirement for waste treatment activities to take place in an enclosed building was “utter nonsense”.

UROC, the organisation for independent waste skip hire and transfer station operators, argued: “To suggest that essentially all activities should be enclosed is misconceived for so many reasons, not least the risk presented by many outdoor operations such as inert aggregate recycling and wood processing is exceptionally low, especially when abatement techniques such as dust suppression are factored in. The EA adopting a default position, unless an operator can demonstrate equally effective alternative measures, has proven incredibly difficult for industry to implement.”

UROC also suggested that undertaking the enclosed building rule would be “catastrophic” due to the “enormous” cost implications that would cause anxiety for small businesses and national operators.

As the proposals for this rule would also include household waste and recycling centres (HWRCs), UROC added that as many sites operate outdoors, there has been “no consideration” to the practicalities of using the sites or the burden this would put onto local authorities to comply with the “stringent” measures.

‘Unlawful’

UROC’s response said that the terms could not legally be applied to waste facilities that are not installations.

Ms Watts added that she believed the guidance to be “fundamentally flawed” as it seeks to impose Best Available Techniques (BAT) obligations which are only applicate to waste installations, and not waste facilities.

The waste operator suggested that the guidance in its current form would be a risk of a legal challenge by the way of judicial review “simply because it is unlawful”.

UROC said that the EA is “exceeding its powers” as there is no legal mechanism in place to actually impose the “onerous” guidance on waste facilities.

It said: “The guidance should not apply to waste facilities that are not installations. A risk-based approach should be adopted, as one size not fits all simply does not work – especially for such a diverse industry.”

Concern

Other waste operators have expressed concern over the proposals (see letsrecycle.com story).

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) previously said that the proposals were an issue for the sector, explaining that the guidance needs to “explicitly recognise and enable appropriate risk based alternative to some of the ‘default’ requirements”.

Tarmac is also “extremely concerned” about the impact it will have on the waste transfer and treatment industry.

Sharon Palmer, national environmental permitting manager at Tarmac, said that what was most concerning about the guidance was that it “makes enclosure of waste treatment in a building the default control measure and this is counter to a risk based approach”.

1COMMENTS

This default position which the Environment Agency is looking to impose is another example of putting the protection of the Environment first and cost cutting by reducing resources (employing and training good regulation officers) through less risk based regulation before the Health & Safety of those who work in the Waste Management Industry.

Treatment operations carried out within enclosed buildings will undoubtedly increase the the hazards and ”Harm to Human Health” from vehicle and plant exhausts, fumes, particulates, spores, darker unlit spaces, increased obstacles & collision, potentially explosive or flammable atmospheres, confined spaces etc. etc. I could go on much further.

There will be additional expensive control measures that will need to be employed within enclosed buildings too e.g. maintaining negative air pressure, ensuring there is adequate airflow, real time monitoring of staff health etc.

The Environment Agency, The HSE and The Waste Management Industry need to discuss and agree the balance between the Environment & Health and Safety and the provide the best options first.

Posted by Joe Gatley on November 24, 2020

To post your comment, please login or signup.

Login Sign up