The Environment Agency (EA) has given the streetworks industry another year to develop a method to determine whether its waste is hazardous.
Legislation had been due to take effect on 31 January which meant that all waste from utilities had to be classified, withdrawing an exemption for materials that arose from small unplanned operations.
This has now been put back until May 2020, which means that volumes of unplanned waste up to 120cu m can still be disposed of as non-hazardous waste as default.
Once the rules do change, all waste will have to be assessed as hazardous or not, no matter what its volume.
Clive Bairsto, chief executive of Street Works UK, which represents utilities contractors, said: “We have been working with the EA to develop a protocol to ensure that waste from utility excavations is properly classified.
“The utilities industry produces around six million tonnes of waste annually from the excavation of two million holes, and it is important to ensure there is an industry standard that reduces the burden of having to sample and analyse waste from every utility excavation job while ensuring compliance.
“Developing this protocol will provide certainty of standards within the industry, and greater level of control and responsibility around the management of excavated waste. It is important the [present system] is extended to allow industry the time to develop, trial and implement this protocol and Street Works UK will be working closely with the EAto deliver this ahead of April 2020.”
But waste and recycling company the Sheehan Group objected to the delay in changing the rules.
Head of sales Katie Sheehan said: “The new protocol was a sensible step forward by the EA to ensure any hazardous utility waste was disposed of safely.
“Therefore, we were shocked and disappointed by the last-minute U-turn that has seen the improved laws kicked into the long grass. It’s another sad day for the environmental movement in the UK.
“How can it be acceptable that utility companies can continue to dispose of waste under an exemption, when the waste could be contaminated with volatile organic compounds, heavy metals and diesel?”