BAN Waste Select Committee evidence

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Phase 1 Day 8 2001-10-29 Environment Agency - points for further information 24/10

written evidence submitted in advance

(1) Are you happy with legislation on waste regulation and definition of when waste stops being waste and becomes a product? When will the Agency have clarified the legal position?
(2) The Chair understood that the Environment Agency had been trying to obtain a legal opinion (on what was waste) from counsel for 12 months and requested a note updating the current position.

Response (1 & 2):

The Agency shares the views set out in the national waste strategy that waste management sites should be brought within the control of the Pollution Prevention Control regime. The Agency has an on going dialogue with the Government concerning refinement and improvement of the legislation on waste regulation.

The Agency is working on guidance on the definition of waste and hopes to finalise that guidance shortly. That guidance will reflect recent court decisions. However, that guidance will have to be reviewed once the European Court has ruled in a case referred to it by the High Court on when waste is recycled. That decision is not likely to be made for some time.

(3) What is the position with community composting schemes? Food waste cannot go in now; are you enforcing this?

Response:

From a regulatory view the Agency would treat community-composting schemes equally with any other types of composting. This will seek to prevent pollution of the environment, harm to human health and serious detriment to the local amenity.

It is recognised that to meet targets in Waste Strategy 2000, there may be a need for a range of sizes and types of recovery & recycling facilities, including community led initiatives. Protection of the environment and health must however be considered in all cases.

The position with regard to composting catering and kitchen waste is set out in the policy papers already given to BANwaste - the note on the Animal By-Products Order and the DEFRA position paper. The enforcing body for this is the Local Authority, in this instance Newcastle City Council.

The position of the Environment Agency in respect to reviewing existing licences/registrations of existing composting facilities is set out in the Agency's position paper.

(4) Jenni Madison referred to the report of the House of Commons Select Committee on the Environment, which had stated that the Environment Agency must provide a better standard of inspection of incinerators if the public's confidence was to be regained. In addition to this, continuous monitoring of the emissions from all incinerator stacks should be carried out and the data made freely and easily available to the public. Where recurrent reaches of limit values were found to occur, the operator should be fined and if breaches continued to occur the plant closed down. How confident was the Agency of this position and whether IPPC covered this area in a way that assured public confidence? Mr Pruce stated that this was an important question and assured the Committee that the Agency did everything it could. However, he undertook to report back to the Committee with a more specific answer.

Response:

Continuous monitoring of particulates, carbon monoxide and hydrogen chloride in releases to air from waste incinerators is required under each of the following EC directives, Hazardous Waste Incineration, Municipal Waste Incineration and the proposed Waste Incineration Directive. Other pollutants such as oxides of nitrogen (NOx), sulphur dioxide and volatile organic compounds may also be required but these are specific to each Directive. Data from continuous releases will form part of the reporting requirements listed in the authorisations and this information will be placed on the public registers of the Agency and the relevant local authority.

Incinerators will be authorised (IPC and PPC), monitored and inspected according to a nationally consistent regime. The Agency will take action in accordance with its Enforcement and Prosecution Policy against any operator found to be breaching conditions of a permit.

(5) Phil Capon queried whether IPC could be considered a permit to pollute. Mr Pruce disagreed. Whichever way waste was managed, there was a risk, which the IPC addressed. Phil Capon pointed out that the Environment Agency had been asked if the Byker incinerator would satisfied this definition and it had said it would. Mr Pruce undertook to report back.

Response:

It should be noted that the Byker plant as previously configured, burning Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) is not a waste incinerator.

Permits to operate waste incinerators will be granted by the Agency only if they meet stringent controls so as to minimise pollution of the environment, impact on human health and the effects on the amenity of the locality.

(6) Val Barton suggested that the problem was what happened between the measuring process and publication of the document. Monitoring was not continuous, only a few hours at a time. How could the Agency improve what was being done already? Mr Pruce undertook to raise the issue of continuous monitoring with the Agency Head Office and report back.

Response:

Not all pollutants (e.g. heavy metals and dioxins) can be measured continuously and extractive sampling will be required to be undertaken by the operator as part of the monitoring and reporting requirements in the authorisation. Sampling will take place over a matter of hours, depending upon the pollutant and under normal circumstances this will draw a known volume of gaseous sample through an impingement train which will trap the pollutant in appropriate liquor. An accredited laboratory will then take this liquor for analyses. Inevitably there will be some delay between physically taking the sample and receiving the sample result. These results will be submitted quarterly, six monthly or annually to the Agency. After examination by the PIR officer responsible for the site these results again will be placed on the public registers. Should the operator discover on receipt of the analytical report that he has breached an authorisation limit he is required by the terms of his authorisation to notify the Agency immediately.

Agency staff also audit the operator's sampling and analytical techniques as well as employing contractors to independently monitor releases from incinerator stacks. These contractors produce reports of the monitoring exercise, which are also placed on the public registers as quickly as possible after receipt.

(7) Mr Pruce undertook to provide a copy of the North East Regional Waste document.

Response:

I have attached an electronic version of the North East Waste Report. The Strategic Waste Management Assessment for the North East can be accessed via the Agency's website at www.Environment-Agency.Gov.UK. I have sent hard copies for both these documents under separate cover marked for your attention.

(8) Bill Hopwood pointed out that the Government and most Local Authorities put a lot of emphasis on organic waste when dealing with compost. Available documentation referred to rules and regulations but he queried the actual definition of compost. His understanding in simple terms was that it should be useable on land for growing purposes and asked Mr Pruce for a clear description and what was going to happen.

Response:

BANWaste will be aware that the Composting Association and the Soil Association have both developed standards for composting. The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) are also developing standards. In practice standards will necessarily vary according to intended use.

The definition in a draft EU working document on Biological Treatment of Biowaste covers: 'the stable and humus-like material rich in organic matter and free from offensive odours resulting from the composting process of separately collected biowaste.......'

The question of whether material which has been subject to a composting process remains to be a waste will need to be checked on a case-by-case basis with the Environment Agency.

(9) Further request from meeting of 15th Oct 2001 regarding WISARD.

Response:

Enquiries about the WISARD life-cycle assessment software tool should be made to Price Waterhouse Coopers: Rachel Noel or Kate Snadden tel 020 7213 1948/3468. It is available to local authorities for ~ �915 plus VAT; this includes two intensive training days and up to 6 hrs software support. Currently around 80 local authorities have bought a licence.

A demonstration version is available to see its application (contact details above).

SEPA use a slightly different version. When this was first introduced a fault was found which was then rectified. SEPA continue to support its use.

David Fellows has also discussed with Val Barton the use of WISARD and has undertaken to demonstrate its use to a number of members of the group.