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Economic routes explored for hazardous waste

The Landfill Directives ban on co-disposal of waste has seen the countrys capacity for hazardous waste disposal greatly reduced. The Environment Agency has stressed that the onus is not just on the waste management sector to provide new facilities but also for the producers of hazardous waste to look for more sustainable management practices, through waste prevention, reduction and recovery, and to take responsibility for the final disposal of the residues they produce.

This is all very well, but after a tense 14 days of industryGovernment stand-offs, the closure of a flagship hazardous waste landfill site and warnings of excessive flytipping, the sector is crying out for strong guidance that makes economical as well as environmental sense.

These regulations place an even greater emphasis on the importance of schemes like the National Industrial Symbiosis Programme (NISP), which seeks to identify sustainable reuse and recycling options for waste materials. The NISP is delivered on a regional basis under the guidance of a business-led project advisory group with national coordination provided by the Business Council for Sustainable Development UK, affiliated to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. The programme has received funding from principal funders The Onyx Environmental Trust through the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme.

The concept of industrial symbiosis begins with member companies and organisations providing information on their input and output resource streams. The process has been designed to be flexible, allowing organisations to choose the level of detail they enter into the programme. A web-based data collection system holds information about resources within participating organisations and the data is analysed to identify links according to the required needs. Participating organisations can also search the database for resources they are looking for. Once a link has been identified, those interested in the resource will contact their regional coordinator who puts the organisations in touch to make the synergy happen.

According to Dr Adrian Murphy, technical manager for the NISP, changes to hazardous waste disposal routes has resulted in a number of new businesses approaching the team and wanting to join the programme to find reuse options for their waste. One mans waste is another mans raw material, says Murphy. The new regulations pose a number of challenges for industry and the NISP team can assist business to identify new reuse options and save money on their waste disposal cost.

The NISP defines symbiosis as the coming together of dissimilar organisms in a mutually beneficial relationship. Industrial symbiosis aims to create resource efficiency by identifying and implementing synergies and linkages between different industries that will lead to previously unwanted or low value output resources to become useful and competitively priced inputs for others.

Murphy says that the potential reuse of hazardous waste is not widely realised but work they have done with members demonstrates its feasibility. Glacier ARM a joint venture between Lafarge Cement UK and Geodur International aims to produce alternative raw materials for the production of Lafarge Cement and other cement producers.

As members of NISP, Glacier has been working closely with regional teams to source materials for their operations from across the programmes network. An NISP workshop identified approximately 200,000 tonnes of various materials suitable for Glaciers processes from a range of sources. The Glacier operation has developed a novel reuse option for some hazardous waste, says Murphy who stresses: Each material must be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Murphy says that more businesses are seeking novel solutions and he believes that as time goes by more companies will become involved in the programme. All the projects the NISP team are involved in are business-led and help companies find reuse options for their waste, he adds.

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