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Westbury Environmental Limited Blog

How an EMS can protect Waste Site Operators from the effects of COVID19

Monday, June 08, 2020

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.

Click here to find out more about the Academy, our online resource centre.

 

Monday, June 08, 2020

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 w Read more

Cyber Essentials: A badge we are proud to wear

Thursday, May 14, 2020

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, 2020

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 Read more

Are you classifying your waste correctly?

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

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.

Click here to visit our events page.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

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 G Read more

Regulation of soil – clear as mud

Monday, January 06, 2020

 

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. 

Click here to book your tickets

 

 

Monday, January 06, 2020

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  Read more