EU Directive targets spur update in technical guidance

The landfill management industry and the Government are focusing on the major shift in operational practice and standards that will result from the implementation of the EU Landfill Directive. In this special feature LAWE reviews action to meet the UK's obligations and reaction from industry, with reports of developments on site and in landfill products.

The UK has just two years from July 1999 to put in place the regulations and guidance for the Directive, which will have a fundamental effect on the way this country develops and manages our landfill sites in the future.

Important changes introduced by the Directive include:
  • the end of co-disposal as practised in the UK ­ hazardous and non-hazardous wastes will no longer be disposed of in the same site, and separate classes of landfill for each waste type will be introduced
  • a number of wastes which currently go to landfill, such as tyres, liquids and certain hazardous wastes, will be banned altogether
  • the requirement for pre-treatment of wastes prior to landfill
  • progressive reduction in the amount of biodegradable waste which can be landfilled.
These will apply to new sites and applications for substantial changes in the first instance, but the Directive quotes provisions will also be extended to all existing sites in time.

Whilst the legislative framework for implementing the Directive will be developed by the DETR, the Environment Agency will have a primary responsibility for the practical implementation of the new regulations. At present, both regulators and landfill practitioners refer to a range of technical guidance documents on landfill development, operation and licensing, the content of which reflects the present UK Waste Management Licensing regime. Clearly these documents will require revision or updating to meet the new standards imposed by the Directive ­ a major undertaking.

The current project, on which Enviros Aspinwall is assisting the Agency, concentrates on the engineering aspects of landfills for the protection of soil and water, with specific reference to those parts of Annex 1 of the Landfill Directive describing water control and leachate management, lining and capping, stability and barriers.

Pat Corker, Project Manager for Enviros Aspinwall, outlined the main aspects of the project to LAWE.

The authoritative technical guidance document on these topics is currently Waste Management Paper 26B, Landfill Design, Construction and Operational Practice, which was published by the DoE in 1995. The project has therefore started with a comprehensive review of this and related technical guidance to identify omissions, conflicts and requirements for updating, before designing a structure for new and amended guidance on the engineering of landfills.

The findings of the preliminary review is encouraging for UK practice, indicating that much of the generic technical guidance in Waste Management Paper 26B will remain valid under the Landfill Directive. This will not come as a surprise to many UK regulators and practitioners, who are already conscious of the stringent technical requirements for new landfills in the UK.

Revised guidance
However, the current guidance will need to be restructured to reflect more closely the Landfill Directive philosophy, terminology and mandatory requirements. In particular, the revised guidance will have to address the new landfill classifications into inert, non-hazardous and hazardous sites and provide advice on interpreting the risk assessment approach in the UK, as compared with the default standards in the Directive for lining and capping landfills. Changes in the nature and composition of the wastes going to landfill should not fundamentally affect the way we approach the process, though are likely to affect the chosen design.

There is also a need to reconcile sustainable development objectives with apparent conflicts in some of the Directive's requirements, for example, the potential to over-engineer sites or incur environmental burdens through transport of waste and development materials.

The next stage is to develop appropriate technical guidance, starting with a new framework document setting out the context and Landfill Directive principles with respect to waste types, landfill classification and risk assessment. It is proposed to restructure and update detailed guidance on engineering topics from Waste Management Paper 26B to take account of contemporary best practice. Like Waste Management Paper 26B, the guidance will be aimed at practitioners and operators in the waste management industry, together with all those in planning and waste regulation who play a part in pollution control and the regulation of landfill sites.

The findings will be used to develop appropriate new guidance for landfill engineering and consolidate technical advice to ensure continuing high standards of landfill practice in the UK, in accordance with EU requirements.

Guidance on landfill gas
In a separate initiative, the Environment Agency is updating technical guidance for the management of landfill gases in England and Wales. The Agency has appointed a task force to draw on a decade of progressive research in landfill gas management and bring existing guidance up-to-date with the latest technical developments and environmental improvements.

When completed, the information will update the current technical guidance provided by Waste Management Paper 27: Landfill Gas (second edition, 1991) and will be an important source of reference for the Agency, the waste management industry, planners and developers.

Agency Project Manager, Mark Maleham, said: "We aim to take a risk-based approach to the guidance, taking account of the considerable recent developments in the understanding of landfill gas management."

The task force is led by Dr Bob Gregory of Land Quality Management Ltd, based at Nottingham University. Other members include Entec Ltd, Berwick Manley Associates Ltd, Knox Associates Ltd and Card Geotechnics.

The project is funded by the Agency's Waste Regulation and Management Research and Development Programme.

Response on limiting landfill
In its response to the Government's consultation paper on limiting landfill to meet the EC Landfill Directive's targets for the landfill of biodegradable municipal waste, the Institute of Wastes Management (IWM) supports options which offer a "front of pipe" solution to achieving reductions.

IWM considers that this can only be achieved through co-operation between the public collection authorities, disposal authorities and the operator. A fundamental part of that process, in the institute's view, is to minimise the amount of waste arising. A ban on landfill, such as offered in Options 1 and 2, and to some extent the restrictions in other options, will only provide part of the solution.


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