If operators are not able to use inert waste for restoration, up to 30 million tonnes of primary aggregates may be at risk each year.
This is the fear of the Quarry Products Association (QPA) which has called for Government to class inert waste use in restoration as recovery rather than disposal and to create a fair regulatory regime.
Although the UK leads Europe in secondary and recycled aggregates production, these materials alone cannot meet demand for aggregates either in quantity or quality.
But with Government putting increased pressure on this practice through restrictive regulations, it is impacting on operators’ ability to restore quarries and thus gain permission for new extractions.
QPA environment and mineral planning committee chairman Nigel Jackson said: “If the materials required for quarry restoration are not available, the future ability to extract minerals is increasingly at risk. There must be recognition from Government that the use of inert waste for restoration is a recovery activity, and it must be proportionately regulated as such.”
Additional burdens come from restrictive interpretations of the Groundwater Directive and the need to line inert landfills with clay due to the supposed risk of contaminated ‘rogue loads’.
Jackson added: “Restoration using inert waste contributes significantly to the aims of sustainable development by returning land to agricultural, recreational and conservation uses and enabling a beneficial use of inert wastes.”
The QPA estimates that there has been a 30% decrease in the amount of inert material accepted at Pollution Prevention Control permitted inert landfills, with this thought to be predominantly due to the effects of the Waste Acceptance Criteria.
Overall, current figures indicate a 16 million tonne per annum deficit in the availability of inert waste for quarry restoration.