Aftercare comes under the Agency spotlight

The care and maintenance of Britain's vast legacy of landfill sites has been taking centre stage in recent years resulting in new proposals from the Environment Agency to promote a new approach to the funding of landfill aftercare

Proposals* that will change the way landfill operators fund the management and maintenance of landfill sites after they have closed were announced last month by the Environment Agency.

The proposals, which will ensure that landfill operators make cash available for the aftercare of their site from the first day of its operation, will alter the existing rules to reflect recent changes made by the EU Landfill Directive. Landfill sites need to be managed long after they have been closed - some for up to 60 years - to ensure that they do not impact on the environment. The operator must pay for this.

Under the current arrangements landfill operators only need to ensure that money for the aftercare/maintenance is available to the Environment Agency in the event that the business fails or the site is prematurely closed. This is normally done through agreements with banks or insurance companies who then cover the costs on the company's behalf.

Under the existing policy, many operators have chosen to meet the requirements by taking out a performance bond which will pay out a specified sum to the Agency if they fail to undertake the necessary closure and aftercare in respect of their site.

Onus on the operator

Liz Parkes Head of Waste Regulation at the Environment Agency said: "Under the current arrangements, landfill operators need to ensure that money will be provided to the Environment Agency to look after their site should the company go under. These proposals go one step further, to ensure that they are actually putting money aside each year to maintain their sites following closure. These proposals put the emphasis of providing aftercare of landfill sites on the company."

Since 1994, UK law has required that licences for landfill sites can only be issued to someone who is "fit and proper" to hold a licence. One of the elements of fit and proper is that they must have made "financial provision sufficient to discharge the obligations of the licence". This requirement has been tightened by the implementation of the Landfill Regulations which give effect to the EU Landfill Directive.

* The consultation document,Financial Provision for Landfill, can be found on the Environment Agency website www.environment-agency.gov.uk or by calling 08708 506506. Views are sought by the 30 November 2004.

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