The Environment Agency (EA) has indefinitely closed its Definition of Waste Panel for businesses.
In September, the agency told stakeholders that no submissions would be received for three months. Now the EA has made the closure indefinite.
A message to customers says: “The Definition of Waste Panel is closed until further notice while its role and purpose is reviewed in the context of our waste regulation strategy. We do not have a timescale for any further updates or when the outcome of the review will be known.”
The EA advises that guidance on determining the waste status of a business’s material can be found online and it provides a self-assessment tool for businesses called IsItWaste.
360 Environmental director Phil Conran said the panel’s closure raised an “interesting dilemma” for companies wishing to deal with their waste responsibly.
He suggested a more “commonsense attitude to enforcement” could now be used by the EA, with the panel using “excessive analysis and criteria”.
On his company’s website, he writes: “With the circular economy pushing hard for resource efficiency and product longetivity, it must surely be time to take a more relaxed position on materials that have an obvious use that is being questioned simply because it is waste.
“Upcycling, for instance, would not be practical if every workshop making lamps out of bicycle wheels needed a permit.
“But, as always, it is those that use the openings for large-scale environmental abuse which then make it difficult for the EA to adopt a more liberal approach. Hopefully, though, the demise of the panel will open the door to a common sense attitude to enforcement by the EA.”
When the panel was suspended in September, Renewable Energy Association (REA) technical director Jeremy Jacobs said his members would be affected adversely by the change and blamed the closure on EA staff cuts.
He told MRW at the time: “I am aware that a number of members have submitted applications for consideration which will now be delayed considerably. The EA is shedding more staff and [the panel] has gone from eight full-time employees to one.”
In September, an EA spokesperson said: “We want to encourage all businesses affected to read our guidance and use the IsItWaste self-assessment tool.”
The agency has also scrapped its centralised assessment panel for fire prevention plan applications.