Westbury Environmental Limited Blog
By Georgie Watkins
Misclassifying or not classifying your waste can have serious consequences. Without a clear understanding of the waste classification process, waste producers
and operators could find themselves facing the wrath of the Environment Agency on this issue.
Technical Guidance WM3 provides guidance on how to assess and classify waste. Environment Agency officers have recently received in-depth training on this
guidance. As a result, we consider it highly likely that this will result in more waste producers and operators being asked to present evidence that
they have classified their waste correctly. If such evidence is not available it could lead to non-compliance scores on Compliance Audit Reports, higher
annual subsistence fees for permits, fines and prosecutions.
Last year, a small waste operator was prosecuted by the Environment Agency for incorrectly classifying waste that was brought into his waste site. The
waste that they thought was non-hazardous “soils and stones”, turned out to contain a hazardous concentration of asbestos fibres and the waste should
have been classified as “soils and stones containing hazardous substances”. The operator was prosecuted and subject to a £20,000 fine plus costs. These
fines appear to be only increasing as time goes on.
There are several outdated “rules-of-thumb” with regard to classifying waste that are widespread in the waste industry and should not be used. Such as, the waste is non-hazardous if:
- the metals concentrations add up to below 1000mg/kg.
- the metal adds up to less than 2,500mg/kg.
- the waste has failed inert WAC.
Waste can only be classified as “non-hazardous” or “hazardous” if it has been classified in accordance with the Technical Guidance. The use of the term
“Inert” immediately suggests that landfill acceptance criteria has been incorrectly used to classify waste. Hazardous waste assessments must be carried
out using total content analysis data and not using eluate analysis data (landfill WAC tests). To explain this, think of a cup of tea, you have the
tea bag and the water and the resulting tea drink. To classify the waste as hazardous or non-hazardous you need to test the tea bag. Only if it is
going to landfill would you then do a test on the tea drink that results from the tea bag in the water.
You may be thinking that only waste that is coded with mirror entry codes needs to be classified, for example waste from a waste treatment process can
be coded as 19 12 12 non-hazardous and 19 12 11* hazardous. However, all waste needs to be classified to determine its hazardous properties. So, an
absolute non-hazardous coded waste such as 20 02 02 (soil and stones from parks and gardens) could have hazardous properties and these would need to
be identified on the Waste Transfer Note. Likewise, you still must assess an absolute hazardous coded waste to be able to identify its hazardous properties.
Not all waste classification assessments are made equal! There is a level of competency required to produce a robust classification. If you have any doubt, come along to our one-day seminar “Your Waste: Is it Hazardous?” to be held in London and Norwich this year where we will talk you through the classification process. Even if you do not do classifications yourself, we will teach you how to tell a robust report from a poor one.
Wednesday, March 11, 2020By Georgie Watkins Misclassifying or not classifying your waste can have serious consequences. Without a clear understanding of the waste classification process, waste producers and operators could find themselves facing the wrath of the Environment Agency on this issue. Technical G Read more
By Tracey Westbury
The most common questions that I get asked are those surrounding soil. Considerable confusion exists over; when it is defined as a waste or not, it’s classification and waste coding, what to test for and what the results mean, the lawfulness of its reuse on the site of origin or on other sites, its use in landscaping, construction and restoration projects, when it has been recovered or when it has been disposed of, this list could go on.
Soil is a massive resource. It is reported that 58.7 million tonnes of waste soil were generated in the UK in 2016.This figure does not include ‘mineral waste’ of which 81.1 million tonnes was generated. It is not surprising then that there are several prosecutions each year by the Environment Agency in relation to soil. In addition to prosecution, there is the threat of fines from HMRC for avoidance of landfill tax for unlawful deposits of soil. At a fine of nearly £90 per tonne this far exceeds the landfill tax that would otherwise have been levied on the waste soil had it actually been disposed of to landfill.
Even with the best intentions, operators/developers can find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Without a clear understanding of the regulatory regime, code of practice and technical guidance the chances of getting it all correct are slim to none, unless a competent advisor is used. A competent adviser should be able to describe the options available to ensure that the movement / treatment / deposit of the soil is lawful. It is appropriate in this case that a ‘little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing’. I often see, for example, Site Investigation reports that provide a little ‘helpful’ advice on complying with waste regulation. Often this is so inaccurate / misleading that it would leave the operator open to prosecution should this advice be taken.
I feel the need to mention recycled soil. By that I mean soil that has been through a mechanical treatment process, typically screening. Such treatment separates larger aggregate fractions from smaller particles considered to be soil. The larger aggregate fraction can reach ‘end of a status’ in accordance with the WRAP Quality Protocol for Aggregates from Inert Waste. However, there is presently no way to get the soil fraction out of the definition of waste. No matter if it complies with BS3882 or not, this is only a quality standard to ensure that the soil can support plant growth and has no bearing whatsoever on the definition of material as waste or not.
Useful reading includes the AGS Guidance on Waste Classification for Soils – A Practitioners Guide, the CL:AIRE Definition of Waste: Development Industry Code of Practice and webpages on the Environment Agency website.
Alternatively, you could attend our one-day seminar focussing on this subject being held in 2020 in Norwich, London and Telford.
Monday, January 06, 2020By Tracey Westbury The most common questions that I get asked are those surrounding soil. Considerable confusion exists over; when it is defined as a waste or not, it’s classification and waste coding, what to test for and what the results mean, the lawfulness of its reuse on the site Read more