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Hazardous waste on the rise

Last month the National Policy Statement for Hazardous Waste was laid before Parliament, setting out Government’s policy for hazardous waste infrastructure in England. Andrea Lockerbie takes a closer look

While hazardous waste accounts for only a small percentage of total waste arisings in England – around 2.7% in 2010 - the volumes are still significant at around 3.3 million tonnes. This figure did not decline significantly during the economic downturn, and is expected to increase when the economy improves.

According to the document: “There have also been recent negative trends in the fate of the hazardous waste produced and which have seen decreases in the amounts of hazardous waste sent for recycling and reuse since 2006. This is partly due to a lack of available facilities for treatment and because landfilling certain hazardous wastes such as contaminated soil is often seen as the only option by some hazardous waste producers. There has been some increase in amounts sent to recovery in recent years, but more needs to be done to reverse this negative trend and new facilities are needed to allow more waste to be recycled and reused.”

Government envisages demand for new and improved large scale hazardous waste infrastructure to increase as more types of waste are removed from municipal waste stream and managed as ‘hazardous’ such as WEEE and batteries. Changes to the list of hazardous properties in the revised Waste Framework Directive and forthcoming changes to the European Waste List are also expected to lead to an increase in volumes as more types of waste are deemed ‘hazardous’, meaning greater volumes that need to be treated as such in accordance with the waste hierarchy.

‘A Strategy for Hazardous Waste Management in England (2010)’ established the need for new hazardous waste facilities and types of facility, with waste electrical and electronic equipment plants, oil regeneration plants, treatment plants for air pollution control residues, facilities to treat oily wastes and oily sludges, bioremediation/soil washing plants to treat contaminated soil diverted from landfill and hazardous waste landfill likely to fall into the ‘nationally significant infrastructure’ category. Ship recycling facilities, needed to meet the objectives of the UK Ship Recycling Strategy (2007), would also fall into the category. Thresholds for ‘nationally significant infrastructure’ are set out in the Planning Act.

While the document lists the type of facilities needed, it sets out the Government’s technology neutral and location neutral stance, stating that “Government prescription might in theory allow scope for more targeted delivery of sustainability objectives, but in reality it risks discouraging industry from bringing forward new developments or hampering the introduction of new types of technology that might be more sustainable” and “the private sector is best placed to select locations that are suitable for economic reasons”.

It does however suggest that consideration be made to co-locate new and existing facilities where some existing infrastructure may be used, such as new facilities to manage waste from flat panel displays – deemed a fast-growing new hazardous waste stream - alongside existing WEEE plants.  

For more, read the document at:

Secretary of State Owen Patterson laid National Policy Statement for Hazardous Waste before parliament on 6 June. On the same day Defra published a summary of responses to the consultation, which ran from 14 July – 20 October 2011. This revealed that the consultation had only 28 responses.

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