The Environment Agency (EA) has said it will allow industry operators extra storage for a six month period, in answer to concerns about the build up of recyclate tonnages.
This is a direct response to what the EA described as an unprecedented downturn in market conditions as overseas buyers have withdrawn their business. Some local authorities and companies could not sell enough material to stay below the current regulations storage limits, forcing them to consider the option of landfilling it. However, the new rules will mean material can be stored temporarily.
In a joint statement the Government, EA and other consulting bodies said: We want to ensure that this [downturn in materials demand] does not undermine public confidence in the value of recycling nor lead to unacceptable environmental consequences.
The EA said: We do not want the current economic problems to result in a return to landfill and a reversal of the trend for households and businesses to recycle more of their waste.
It also said that it was important that collection treatment and reprocessing capacity was retained in England and Wales.
Operators must stay within their permits storage limits but if they need extra storage, they can discuss a temporary increase with their local EA office. To secure extra storage for longer than six months, operators will need to apply for a permit variation. The EA reassured operators that it would respond in a timely manner to requests for temporary storage increases for permitted recyclable waste sites.
The Local Government Association will also be writing to councils later this week with advice on practical measures that they can take.
Environment Minister Jane Kennedy had previously confirmed that the matter was an important issue when asked by MP Michael Jack last week in Parliament how the Government would avoid growing mountains of materials following a catastrophic fall in the prices of plastic bottles, paper and cans.
Negative environmental consequences of the market downturn the EA aims to guard against
* Reduced plant maintenance or lower treatment standards due to pressure to reduce costs
* lower quality of processed recyclable material due to pressure to reduce costs
* inappropriate storage of materials until market conditions improve, which could cause environmental harm
* an increase in abandoned vehicles caused by the fall in the price of scrap metal