Meacher cracks down on poor waste sites

Poorly managed waste sites will get more inspections under a new risk-based system, according to UK environment minister Michael Meacher. In future, poor performers will also pay higher charges until they improve. Better managed sites will get fewer inspections, a minimum of four a year, and lower charges.


Under the Operator Pollution Risk Appraisal (OPRA), each site will be given an Environmental Appraisal and an Operator Performance Appraisal. This will provide a score for each site and determine how often the Environment Agency inspects that site.

The objectives of the new system are to:

  • make more effective use of the Agency’s waste inspection resources by targeting inspections on sites where they are most needed
  • help the site operators improve their performance and reduce the risk
  • ensure the Agency’s site inspections are of the right quality and consistency
  • provide clear evidence that the Agency is carrying out ‘appropriate periodic inspections’ and that the Agency is effectively supervising sites
  • ensure that the environment and human health are being protected.

“We must ensure that waste is recovered or disposed of in ways which protect the environment and human health,” said Meacher, in response to a parliamentary question. “The site inspections which the Agency carries out are a vital part of this process. The new system will further improve standards by targeting inspections on those sites where they are most needed and making more effective use of the Agency’s waste inspection resources.

“It will also provide site licence holders with a risk management system which enables them to identify the environmental risks associated with their site and the operations they carry out, and to assess and improve the quality of their performance in managing those operations and their environmental risks.”

The introduction of the new system follows a consultation exercise carried out last year. The main factors are an Environmental Appraisal and an Operator Performance Appraisal which provide an individual OPRA score for each site. This OPRA score will determine how often the Environment Agency inspects the site. However, each site will have a base environmental score which will determine the minimum inspection frequency for each site; and since this score will be recalculated quarterly, the minimum inspection frequency that any site will be subject to is once every three months.

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