The Environment Agency (EA) have published their consultation outcome for “Non-hazardous and inert waste: appropriate measures for permitted facilities”. The aim of the consultation was to help operators understand the appropriate measures relevant to regulated facilities permitted to treat or transfer (or both) non-hazardous and inert waste. The appropriate measures technical guidance aims to improve the design and operation of permitted facilities in the non-hazardous and inert waste sector. It will ensure that appropriate measures are applied consistently.

The non-hazardous and inert waste appropriate measures do not impact biowaste treatment.

The consultation received 61 responses over the course of 9 weeks, closing in November 2020. The REA responded to this consultation; please contact us here with any questions on the REA’s response, which you can read here. The EA consultation response can be read in full here

The EA summary of the main findings are at the bottom of this post.

“Many respondents told us the guidance adopted ‘a one size fits all’ approach and in reality there are differing levels of risk within the sector. We agree and acknowledge the need for flexible approach in paragraph 9 of the guidance which states:

Some measures may not be suitable or relevant for your operation. Appropriate measures will depend on the:

  • activities being carried out
  • size and nature of the activities
  • location of the facility

Paragraph 11 of the guidance also states that operators can propose alternative measures that achieve the same level of environmental protection or explain why a measure is not relevant.

The guidance applies to over 4,000 permitted facilities, operating a variety of waste activities of varying complexities and scale. For that reason we acknowledge that some sections may not apply in full to some permitted facilities. The guidance provides a framework for how we expect permitted facilities in the sector to operate. We will however review the guidance, where appropriate, to make it clearer that risk assessment is critical when determining appropriate measures.

Many respondents told us they had serious concerns with the enclosed buildings section of the guidance, particularly paragraph 177 of the guidance which states:

“Enclosing activities within buildings is an appropriate measure for preventing and minimising emissions of pollution. For waste treatment activities, we consider this to be the default control measure, given that an appropriately designed building will reduce a range of types of pollutants.”

Respondents were concerned about the:

  • financial implications
  • feasibility
  • timeframes
  • cost/benefit
  • overall environmental impact

We explain in further detail the actions we will take in the enclosed buildings section.

Some respondents questioned the lawfulness of the guidance as they considered the guidance seeks to impose BAT obligations to all sites within the sector, when BAT only applies to waste installations. We consider this in more detail in our response to question 13.

Some respondents told us they were concerned with the proposed implementation timescales. Through permit reviews, we will assess the current operating techniques of facilities against the relevant appropriate measures. We would incorporate the timescales for making improvements into the permit. We would do this using a permit variation and improvement conditions, where we consider it appropriate. Operators can input into agreeing improvement condition timescales as we correspond with them during the permitting process. In exceptional circumstances, we will consider changing the deadlines after the permit has been varied, and if we agree, we will do this in writing.

Some respondents told us the guidance was disproportionate for exemptions. For a waste activity carried out under an exemption, the operator must comply with the objectives which underpin exemptions, set out in Article 13 of the Waste Framework Directive. The operator must not:

  • cause a risk to water, air, soil, plants or animals
  • cause a nuisance through noise or odours
  • adversely affect the countryside or places of special interest

We consider the use of appropriate measures (such as management systems), which are proportionate to the risk posed, are essential and of benefit to both businesses and the environment. Exempt operators may find it useful to refer to the guidance as it will help them make sure they comply with the exemption conditions and the Waste Framework Directive objectives.

Many consultation responses included specific technical points to each paragraph in the guidance. We will not respond to each individual point raised within this response document, but we will consider addressing those points in the final guidance.

We will produce a business impact target (BIT) assessment as a result of the guidance. When we carry out BIT assessments we are guided by the BIT methodology published by the Secretary of State under the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015. The impact is primarily assessed on the basis of its ‘equivalent annual net direct cost to business’. Only direct impacts on business are scored for the BIT. These are impacts that can be identified as a direct result of implementing the guidance.”