To recycle or not to recycle?

Environment and technology strategy manager at OSS Group, Paul Ramsden, offers an update on the current waste management legislation situation, as well as the likely changes to existing legislation.

Over a year ago British industry was facing imminent legislative changes in the field of special waste management. However, these changes have not happened as quickly as the industry anticipated and the focus on waste minimisation has been somewhat blurred in recent months. Businesses throughout UK industry have continued to place waste minimisation and recycling fairly low down on the agenda, but at what cost?

The reasons for the delay in agreeing and implementing new legislation are not entirely clear. However, what is certain, is that the UK government is looking long and hard at how it can meet the requirements of the EU Waste Oil Directive. There is a strong feeling amongst both ministers and industry that the principle of polluter pays needs to be balanced by a workable system that will be easy to implement at ground level.

Special waste regulations

The general opinion of the industry is that the initial proposed changes to the Special Waste Regulations would have been unworkable for UK industry. After feedback from all concerned parties, the regulations have been changed to include several new factors.

The most significant of these changes are:

  • a requirement for all waste producers to have a unique ID number provided by the Environment Agency before any waste can be moved from their premises;

  • redesignation of special waste as hazardous waste.

The latter of these two changes is perhaps the most significant change. This will mean that a number of waste streams not currently covered by any legislative requirements will be classified as hazardous waste. As such they will need to be disposed of by registered companies or through strict channels, in order to comply with the new legislation.

Waste oil directive

Promoting the safe collection and disposal of waste oils, this legislation gives priority to processing of waste oil by regeneration. There continues to be a lack of clarity from the UK government on how it plans to meet the requirements of this directive. In fact, the UK has already received a European Court of Justice Infraction ruling against it for failure to comply with this Waste Oil Directive.

There is currently little support for waste oil regeneration from either the public or UK industry and the government is looking at options to stimulate the regeneration process. Waste oil in the UK is currently processed to produce Recycled Fuel Oil, that is utilised mainly by the power and quarrying industries. However, the implementation of the Waste Incineration Directive in 2005 will reduce the number of outlets, due to compliance issues. Existing legal requirements have already placed a limit on the number of outlets that currently utilise this fuel.

The Landfill Directive is already starting to have an impact on the UK as it has banned liquid waste disposal to landfill and reduced landfill outlets for special/hazardous wastes. Government policy is to implement year on year increases for Landfill Tax that now stands at £14 per tonne.

Where does this leave the waste producer? In a similar position to the one it was in 12 – 18 months ago. Businesses should be focusing on waste minimisation and environmentally sound waste management practices to ensure that they are one step ahead of the likely legislative changes. The principle of polluter pays will form the backbone of any legislative changes in the UK, which will drive up the costs of waste disposal. Any business producing waste streams, particularly those that will be classed as hazardous, should be looking seriously at implementing new strategies to deal with waste management issues.

Waste handling

OSS is continuously seeking innovative ways to improve its waste handling practice and, wherever economically viable, this means recycling rather than disposal. OSS can perform environmental audits on businesses to assess whether current waste management practices are adhering to existing legislation and recommend new ways of handling the waste management process that could be more environmentally sound. Obviously, OSS can also provide a total waste management solution for companies, ensuring that their processes are both environmentally and legislatively correct. The service provided by OSS also means that businesses will be up to date with all necessary Environment Agency paperwork that can be both time consuming and confusing to complete.

As a market leader in special waste management and disposal, OSS is closely monitoring the situation with regard to legislative changes. As soon as there is news on how the legislation is going to change, OSS will be the first to communicate with its customers and the industry at large to help companies comply with the changes.

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