While MRF operators tend to be “good at the basics” of compliance, some are unaware that their sites are operating beyond the allowances of their environmental permits and planning permissions, according to 360 Environmental director Phil Conran.

Speaking at a MRF seminar in Birmingham yesterday (25 May), hosted by Axion Consulting, Conran singled out older sites as being particularly at fault.

He said problems usually arose when sites such as transfer stations gradually expanded to take in more tonnage and materials, and evolved into MRFs as a result.

“The problem often is that because [these sites] had the right planning permission when they started out, it’s assumed that this still must be correct,” Conran told delegates.

If the type of sorting operation changes on-site, for example evolving to process mixed waste or recyclables from single stream materials, operators should check under their permits that different types of equipment, such as automated machinery, can be installed.

“Does your council require the site to be changed to a specific ‘waste use’ category? Some MRFs don’t realise they can’t take in mixed waste and sort them under an exemption,” Conran said.

The problem of whether sites require new permits or permissions can be exacerbated by differing interpretations of the regulations between local authorities and enforcement agencies, he added.

Maxine Perella

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