Defra issues guidance for applying the waste hierarchy

Defra has issued updated guidance on applying the waste hierarchy for businesses in line with the revised EU Waste Framework Directive, which was transposed into UK law earlier this year.

The 14-page guide sets out what the waste hierarchy is, how it works for a range of common materials and products, what businesses and public bodies need to do, together with key questions and ideas for dealing with waste in line with the hierarchy.

The hierarchy ranks various waste management options according to their environmental impact, giving priority to waste prevention with disposal (landfill and incineration without energy recovery) as a last option.

However, it also outlines a few exceptions where the hierarchy ranking shouldn’t apply. These include using anaerobic digestion (AD) over in-vessel composting for food waste, dry AD followed by composting for mixed green and food waste, and energy recovery over recycling for lower grades of wood waste.

The guide also sets out waste producers and handlers’ legal obligations with regard to the hierarchy. This includes checking waste definitions under Defra’s revised version of the Definition of Waste Guidance which will be published later this year.

The guide also advises companies to document any decisions they make which do not comply with the hierarchy, as they may be called on to justify them at a later date.

The guidance does not cover hazardous waste – a separate hierarchy for this will be published at a later date to underpin Defra’s strategy for hazardous waste management in England.

Maxine Perella

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