Redefinition of waste should increase recycling

Classifying a host of waste products as raw materials could break down the administrative barriers that currently make them difficult to reuse.

Cutting red tape will make it easier to turn millions of tonnes of industrial and commercial waste into usable materials, according to the Environment Agency and Government-funded recycling champion WRAP (the Waste & Resources Action Programme).

The initiative, the Waste Protocols Project, follows in the footsteps of a successful trial in this area which redefined composted waste that met certain standards as a
Non-waste product (see related story).

The second round of the project will focus on five major waste streams:

  • Steel slag from steel manufacture, which can be reused in construction and building materials and as an agricultural fertiliser.

  • Gypsum from waste plasterboard which can be used to make new plasterboard and in cement products.

  • Incinerator bottom ash which is made up from glass, porcelain, brick, gravel, sand, slag and ash from household waste that is burnt in incinerators, and can be used as aggregate in construction materials.

  • Paper mill ash which is produced when sludge from paper making is burnt for energy recovery and the ash can be used as an aggregate.

  • Uncontaminated top soil from greenfields and development sites can be reused on a wide range of horticultural and leisure sites such as parks, golf courses and football pitches.

    In addition the protocol will also look at the status of the by-products of anaerobic digestion, the technique of disposing of food waste favoured in the recently published Waste Strategy.

    The project will set standards that the by-products must meet and, should they do so, will do away with the need for costly licensing to dispose of or transport waste.

    It will also serve as a kitemark giving potential purchasers assurances that the recycled waste is fit for purpose.

    Martin Brocklehurst, head of external programmes for the EA said: "According to industry figures, it currently costs them around £150m each year to landfill these five types of waste.

    "The Waste Protocols Project will look at the current environmental risk posed by the five type of waste chosen today and wherever possible remove the need for companies to hold the permits and licences that they need.

    "Part of our work is to set out an agreed standard for the treating and handling of a type of waste. If these are followed by the businesses that produce or reprocess the waste it gets rid of the "waste" tag, making the waste derived products more marketable and attractive to buyers."

    WRAP's director of organics Dr Richard Swannell added: "Earlier this year we produced the first Quality Protocol, for compost which allowed producers to create a type of compost which is no longer classed as a waste, making it a more attractive product to those who buy it."

    "This first protocol is testament to what is achievable through the collaborative working approach shown by the Environment Agency, WRAP business and industry.

    "The five wastes we have announced today will go some way in helping reduce the amount of waste disposed in landfills every year as well as helping to create valuable products."

    The Environmental Services Association, a trade body which represents many companies working in the waste management sector, has also welcomed the progress on the protocols.

    "Waste protocols help clarify when materials are fully recovered, providing certainty to waste managers, recyclers and end users," said an ESA spokesman.

    "Whilst supporting work on a number of protocols, ESA is particular pleased that incinerator bottom ash aggregate has been included, as this can play a valuable role in replacing virgin material, reducing the need for quarrying and reducing CO2 emissions from transport."

    Sam Bond

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