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All change for haz waste assessment

Legislation evolves over time, with some changes being incremental and others bringing significant and immediate effects.

While major changes are usually well publicised, the recent implementation of the Waste Classification and Assessment – Technical Guidance WM3 has perhaps not received sufficient exposure.

As well as a slight increase in waste management costs, the introduction of WM3 could result in compliance issues for some waste producers, who may find that material which they have been producing and classifying as ‘non-hazardous’ for many years will now be considered as ‘hazardous’. There are also changes for waste treatment and disposal facilities where they may no longer be consented to accept previously compliant material.

Although waste is exempt from certain aspects of Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) Regulation, the Waste Framework Directive states that classification of waste as hazardous must be based on EU chemicals classification legislation. Therefore, CLP methodology must be used for classifying wastes before they are recovered, recycled or disposed.

The CLP Regulation was applied in full in the UK on 1 June, and the new system introduces hazardous properties and statements to replace the old hazard class and risk phrases. This sees a change in the way waste is assessed and classified in the UK, and presents an opportunity for businesses to review the waste service they receive to ensure that it is compliant and cost effective.

Previous methods of classifying and labelling hazardous waste and dangerous substances, such as the dangerous substances and dangerous preparations directives, which were implemented in the UK under the Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations (CHiP Regulations), have now been superseded. CHiP will be replaced with the European CLP Regulation that implements the Global Harmonisation System and brings us in line with the rest of the world.

The duty of care provisions of the Environmental Protection Act place a duty on waste producers to first of all classify their waste correctly and then ensure that it is legally transported and processed by competent organisations. But the complexity of the legislation and decision-making process now means that only those with experienced technical departments are likely to be able to make their assessments in-house.  

In practice this will have most effect on industrial wastes or contaminated materials which contain substances listed under CLP, where assessment threshold levels may have been reduced or where materials have been assessed as having new hazards or risk phrases.

What does this mean for waste producers? Ultimately, the introduction of WM3 means that businesses now need to review all relevant waste streams to ensure that they are not regarded as hazardous and therefore require alternative forms of containment, transport and treatment or disposal.

The most effective and efficient way for businesses to do this is to speak to their waste service provider. At William Tracey Group, our team of technical specialists has systems in place to classify waste materials using CLP. Usually a ‘desktop’ review will be sufficient but, in some instances, additional information may be required on how the waste was produced or the chemical compounds it contains.

One further potential point of confusion, hopefully temporary, is that in Scotland, WM3 was implemented on 8 June while the dates are still to be confirmed for England and Wales. In partnership with the environment agencies for England and Wales and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) has created a revised guidance document, Waste Classification: Guidance on the Classification and Assessment of Waste (WM3). The hazardous waste regulations will change during 2015.

There will be varying implementation dates throughout the UK and, until the changes have been fully implemented by an individual country, Sepa will accept movements of waste into Scotland from that country under the old classification system WM2 and the WM3 system.

Organisations should be aware that, alongside the change to waste classification, there will be a requirement to carry out all Control of Substances Hazardous to Health assessments under the new system and refer to the various pieces of legislation that are affected by the changeover to CLP.  

While these changes may initially result in extra expense for some producers, which may require additional treatment or a change of disposal routes for certain waste streams, the new regime has to be welcomed because it incorporates more current research data and standardising assessment criteria for products and waste in a uniform manner across Europe.

Graeme McDonald is managing director of William Tracey Group’s industrial and utilities division    

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