To comply with the directive, the co-disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous waste must end, while hazardous waste must be pre-treated before final disposal.
However, industry remains concerned that there could be a lack of capacity to both treat and landfill hazardous waste. It believes treatment capacity problems have arisen because of Government delays in implementing the Waste Acceptance Criteria (WAC).
Last month the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced it would introduce WAC from July 2005, a year after the requirements come into force. The criteria will outline how hazardous waste must be treated before final disposal and although DEFRA has said it should vary little from guidance issued in 2001, industry believes it needs concrete rules before investing in treatment plants.
Environmental Services Association (ESA) chief executive Dirk Hazell has told MRW that it was beyond belief that the Government had not disclosed specific requirements on hazardous waste treatment.
The Landfill Directive was a done deal by 1999. ESA and our members have since had an exemplary audit trail, advising the Government what was needed and when. However, the Government has made an incomplete announcement about how it proposes to deal with hazardous waste after required operational changes to landfill management from July 2004.
Businesses in England and Wales are also waiting for the Hazardous Waste Regulations, which will implement the requirements of the Hazardous Waste Directive. Last month, senior DEFRA officials told MRW that these regulations were not expected to come into effect until six months after they are put in place, which will be around Christmas.
Yet the Scottish Executive has just announced a timetable that will ensure the necessary treatment of all wastes classified by the Hazardous Waste Directive by July 1. Measures will thus be in force north of the border around a year before similar legislation is expected in England.
Dental, agricultural, mining and quarry waste will have to be packaged and labelled as hazardous, and separated where this is better for the environment or human health.
Scottish Deputy Environment Minister Allan Wilson says: These measures will ensure that the full range of hazardous wastes are carefully monitored and tracked from the point where they arise. Taken together with our Landfill (Scotland) Regulations, we are making sure that these wastes are being disposed of properly. The executive is keen to improve the way we deal with such waste.
DEFRAs delay, however, could mean that two different systems are operational in the UK, something the ESA is concerned with. Policy director Mike Walker says: We need to have regimes that can work with each other. Otherwise, it will lead to confusion and duplication. Safe storage of hazardous waste is crucial and there could well be increased pressure from July.
But Walker added that findings from a joint Health and Safety Executive and Environment Agency report offered comfort in that in general there is good compliance with environmental laws.
The report Hazardous waste storage and treatment facilities 2002/3 stated there were fears over waste accumulation and overcrowding. However, 84% of sites visited were generally meeting best-practice criteria. u