Westbury Environmental Limited Blog
Recently the Environment Agency (EA) released a letter to be sent to all waste operators (in England) who produce Trommel Fines. This letter stressed the importance of correct classification of trommel fines and highlighted the fact that “only when a waste assessment, carried out in accordance with WM3 guidance, shows the waste does not display any hazardous properties, can the non-hazardous mirror waste codes be assigned (19 12 12)”
The need to classify waste in accordance with WM3 guidance is not new and applies to all waste regardless of its LOW code.
Following its national campaign to better understand the chemical composition of trommel fines the EA reported to have found over half the samples breached hazardous waste thresholds. Typically, waste operators have assumed that non-hazardous waste treatment would produce non-hazardous fines and have coded this waste 19 12 12 rather than 19 12 11* (hazardous waste) without undertaking any analysis and assessment.
The EA sign off the letter by stating that they ‘will request to see copies of your waste assessments during future compliance visits’.
In addition to the analysis required to assess hazardous properties and correctly classify the trommel fines, if the fines are to be disposed of to landfill then there are other tests that need to be carried out in relation to landfill waste acceptance criteria. I generally find that operators are more familiar with these landfill requirements but not with waste classification requirements. The Technical Guidance document WM3 provides a detailed and comprehensive account of how waste should be classified.
- That the technical goals and objectives are identified.
- That sampling is undertaken to ensure a representative sample is obtained.
- That all compounds that may be present in the waste are analysed for.
- That an assessment is carried out to identify if the waste displays any of the 15 possible hazardous properties.
It is no longer the case that old rules of thumb can be used, such as ‘the metal concentrations add up to less than 2,500mg/kg therefore waste is non-hazardous’.
What Should I Do?
Firstly, do not rush off, grab a sample and send it to the lab asking for a WM3 test and assessment. In many cases this will not result in a robust classification that would pass the scrutiny of the EA. Consider how you will sample the waste and document this (see WM3 appendix D and the sampling form).Talk to the lab/consultant about a suitable suite of determinants that would be appropriate and get a properly trained person to undertake the assessment. When you get the assessment report – make sure you are satisfied with the accuracy of its content.
I am certain that right now that any trommel fines producers are counting the additional costs of these requirements. However, also consider the potential ramifications of not classifying this waste or of misclassification, including increased permit costs, fines, prosecutions etc. You will find a free video resource available on our website that talks about trommel fines in more depth. Click here.
Westbury Environmental Limited have worked with many waste operators over several years to ensure that waste classification requirements are met as efficiently as possible. We work with laboratories and have fully trained haz. waste assessors to ensure a robust assessment is achieved. We also provide training via our webinars. Are you classifying your waste correctly? Are you sure? If you answered "No" to either of these questions, then you are not alone. Join us for our upcoming webinar Your Waste: Is it Hazardous? starting on Tuesday 1st December, to gain an understanding of waste classification and the consequences of getting it wrong. Find out more and register your place here.
Friday, November 13, 2020Recently the Environment Agency (EA) released a letter to be sent to all waste operators (in England) who produce Trommel Fines. This letter stressed the importance of correct classification of trommel fines and highlighted the fact that “only when a waste assessment, carried out in accordance w Read more
Now you would be forgiven for assuming environmental protection and environmental regulation would be inextricably connected. That the primary objective of environmental regulation was to provide protection to the environment. However, in my work as an environmental consultant over the last 20 years or so, I have seen an increase in instances where the focus of enforcement of regulation appears to have little to no basis in environmental protection. Coupled with increasing penalties for falling foul of environmental regulators, this is an ominous prospect for operators of waste sites.
Don't get me wrong, I wholeheartedly support the regulation of our waste industry and feel that we largely have adequate and effective regulation in place. But, when I repeatedly have to deal with situations between regulators and operators that have little connection to environmental protection and more to do with the correct bit of paper, being in the right place at the right time, it simply boils my blood. Especially when this results in operators being subject to harsh penalties, when no environmental harm is evident or even suspected, compared to blatant waste criminals who have caused obvious environmental harm.
So how can operators protect themselves from such liabilities? It comes down to knowledge and a good amount of documentation.
So, let's deal with knowledge first. Ignorance is never an acceptable excuse. And by the way, it is not the job of the regulator to make you aware of the regulatory requirements for your operations. While they may give you advice, they will take no responsibility if their advice is wrong and then may seek to prosecute you for getting it wrong as a result! Get independent advice from an experienced consultant, put yourself on courses, talk to other operators in the industry, get involved with industry associations and consult guidance documents.
Having the correct documentation is crucially important. This generally starts with the Environmental Permit and goes all the way down to the records you keep that evidence the implementation of procedures on site. Such procedures should form part of your Environmental Management System (EMS) along with risk assessments, emission management plans and other documents.
I often find that, even the most diligent, waste site operators find EMS paperwork a challenge and don’t have a full understanding of what their Environmental Permit allows them to do. These operators are at risk from inadvertently operating unlawfully which could lead to increased permit costs and potential prosecution.
I explore both of these subjects in a webinar series that I am running on 10th and 12th November. This short webinar series will help attendees understand Environmental Permits and what an EMS should look like and how to implement it. To register your place or find out more, click here.
Tuesday, September 01, 2020Now you would be forgiven for assuming environmental protection and environmental regulation would be inextricably connected. That the primary objective of environmental regulation was to provide protection to the environment. However, in my work as an environmental consultant over the last 20 y Read more
“More important than the quest for certainty, is the quest for clarity”
I am sure you will agree that the guidance provided by the Government on the changing COVID19 lockdown measures is far from clear. Furthermore, we can’t be certain about the risk from the virus even if we follow these guidelines. As a business owner, mother, sister and daughter I have had to make decisions about retuning my workforce to the office, having family visits etc. Due to the lack of clarity in the guidance I have felt a degree of uncertainty as to whether I am making the right decisions.
As a consultant, I regularly talk to people in the waste industry about waste regulation. I have recently recognised that my feelings of frustration over the lack of clarity and the uncertainty around the COVID19 guidance is very similar to the feeling that my clients have when navigating their way through guidance on waste regulation. They never quite, despite reading reams of guidance, feel that they fully understand all the potential implications of the regulations and guidance. On one hand you have information overload – pages and pages of text, with links throughout to even more pages, such that you can easily feel that you are being lost down a rabbit hole and maybe missing what you are looking for. On the other hand, you have the feeling that there is nothing in the guidance that fits your specific situation or answers a simple question. Unless you work with these regulations/guidance on a regular basis it is my view that you could easily get to the wrong conclusions/answer and the consequences could be severe.
So, what’s the answer?
Seek professional advice.
There will typically be a cost involved with this so ensure the professional you choose has the necessary experience and credentials. Don’t be afraid to ask.
Get some training.
Several organisations including CIWM, WAMITAB and private companies provide a range of courses on a variety of subjects.
Ask Google / You Tube.
Beware of old posts as this may not reflect the current situation. Of course .gov.uk has all the information but it can feel like eating an elephant. Millions of how-to videos can be found on these platforms however, from my searches, there is little to nothing to help you here regarding waste regulation.
The lack of helpful information in short video format produced specifically for the waste industry is the reason I have recently set up the Academy on the Westbury Environmental Limited website. The Academy contains videos to provide answers to the most common questions that I regularly get asked, along with more detailed training videos on a variety of topics. We also run a number of webinars during which attendees can ask questions. My focus is on increasing the content of The Academy to build this resource. Do get in touch if you are having problems getting answers to your queries, I am sure we can help. Or maybe drop us a line if there is a subject you would like to see covered by our training videos.
Monday, July 13, 2020“More important than the quest for certainty, is the quest for clarity” Francois Gautier I am sure you will agree that the guidance provided by the Government on the changing COVID19 lockdown measures is far from clear. Furthermore, we can’t be certain about the risk from the vi Read more
No, an Environmental Management System (EMS) cannot act as a vaccine, but a good EMS really could help waste site operators get through these difficult times.
COVID19 has had a global impact, brought cities to a virtual standstill and changed our day to day lives. However, the Env. Agency will still regulate permit holders and act to protect the environment. The Government have deemed waste workers as ‘key workers’ who are essential to keeping public services running so business continues in this sector .
Social distancing requirements and the fact that many Env. Agency officers are working from home, far fewer site visits are being undertaken by the Environment Agency. I’m sure waste site operators won’t see this as a problem! However, many operators are experiencing problems due to the impacts of COVID19. I want to highlight just two of these problems and suggest how implementing a robust EMS could help.
Build up of waste on site due to the inability to process / remove it from site. This could cause a breach of your permit conditions, an increased fire risk, cross contamination of waste etc. The Env. Agency have responded by releasing a Regulatory Position Statement (RPS) that applies to the temporary exceedance of waste storage limits due to COVID19 restrictions. Basically, if you exceed your storage limit and comply with all the requirements of the RPS then the EA will not normally take enforcement action against you. Your EMS documentation will be essential in demonstrating to the Env. Agency that you have complied with the conditions of the RPS.
No ‘Technically Competent Management’ on the site. This may be due to the inability for managers to complete their Continued Competence tests, they may be furloughed, in self isolation or not able to attend the site. As part of the Env. Agency guidance it is stated that in the absence of a TCM “The operator should be able and capable of operating the plant or site through both their EMS and operations training”.
An EMS should reflect the complexity of the waste operation / site. Lower risk activities will have simpler EMS’s than higher risk activities. Gone are the days where an old Working Plan would suffice. All EMS’s should contain a number of documents including Environmental Risk Assessments, Emission Management Plans, drawings, process flow information etc. and procedures. Documented assessments and plans can be difficult, if not impossible to implement. Therefore, the EMS should bring together all the requirements of these documents into procedures. These procedures should be brief and instructional and may be associated with records that are kept to evidence the implementation of the procedure. Records are also required to evidence the training of staff on the procedures. I recently had a case where an operator was given a non-compliance score by the Env. Agency due to not having training records despite having a good EMS.
How we can help.
We can provide you with guidance on the development of your EMS or simply take care of the whole process for you. There is no generic template involved, each EMS is as unique as the sites and operators are.
We can provide training on the implementation of the EMS. Not face to face of course at the moment but as I type, we are creating online content on this very subject. Training which even furloughed staff can benefit from.
Monday, June 08, 2020No, an Environmental Management System (EMS) cannot act as a vaccine, but a good EMS really could help waste site operators get through these difficult times. COVID19 has had a global impact, brought cities to a virtual standstill and changed our day to day lives. However, the Env. Agency w Read more
Even as a small consultancy we handle an immense amount of electronic data. Focus has been on the organisation of that data to ensure information can be readily retrieved. However, more recently we have turned our focus to security.
Following a successful funding application in late 2019, we replaced all our IT equipment. This paved the way for our application for certification under Cyber Essentials. This Government backed scheme is designed to help you to protect your organisation against a whole range of the most common cyber attacks.
Despite the pandemic we did not want to delay progress and submitted it just after the lockdown. Of course, we were all working from home by that time. I was gutted to have our application rejected by the auditor due to temporary changes in our working situation due to COVID19. We turned around the situation within 48 hours and was awarded the certificate. As such, I think we are the first and may be the only company to have a pandemic proof Cyber Essentials certificate.
I must mention the superb work from Bespoke Computing Ltd. in Telford who designed, installed and set up our whole IT system, they have provided on-going support and assisted us with our Cyber Essentials application.
We take our responsibility for the security of our IT system very seriously and are proud to be able to demonstrate this to our clients and suppliers by proudly wearing our Cyber Essentials badge – in an electronically acceptable way of course.
Thursday, May 14, 2020Even as a small consultancy we handle an immense amount of electronic data. Focus has been on the organisation of that data to ensure information can be readily retrieved. However, more recently we have turned our focus to security. Following a successful funding application in late 2019, we Read more
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