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Industry says more AD regulation not the answer to pollution problems

Members of the waste industry say tighter regulation is not the solution to rising waste incidents in the waste industry, especially in the anaerobic digestion (AD) sector.

This month, MRW reported Environment Agency (EA) figures showing that waste-related pollution incidents rose in 2012 despite an overall fall in instances of pollution across all UK industries that year.

This increase was mainly attributed to to odour emissions and new sub-sector waste technologies (see graphic above). AD had by far the highest number of pollution incidents of any technology with 8.8 instances for every 100 waste permits issued.

Charlotte Morton, chief executive of the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA), said: “The rise in incidents is clearly unacceptable and it is agreed that ADBA has a role in helping improve compliance rates.

“We are a young industry that’s growing fast and we are working hard to improve operational performance and environmental protection. I don’t think tighter regulation is the way to go about it. It’s about guidance.”

She added that ADBA has begun developing a best practice scheme for the sector, together with the Environment Agency, Health and Safety Executive, WRAP and others. It is expected to be complete in the next 18 months to two years.

Sam Corp, head of regulation at the Environmental Services Association (ESA) said: “In a sector as complex as the waste sector challenges remain. We would urge the [Environment] Agency to give more credit to responsible waste management firms who use accredited environmental management systems and third party verification, which would allow agency resources to be focused more on poor performers.”

Harry Waters, commercial director of AD company Agrivert, echoed Morton’s comments that the rise in pollution events is unwelcome, but indicative of any new industry refining its processes.

He said that although unacceptable, these pollution events have to be put in the context of the huge environmental benefit of the sector - the AD and composting sector accounts for about 40% of UK recycling. 

He added: “Over-regulation is not the answer. This could stifle the sector and vastly increase the cost of disposal. That in itself would discourage diversion from landfill.”

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