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New rules over storage of catalytic converters

Metal recyclers have welcomed temporary regulations around the storage of catalytic converters, designed to protect workers’ health.

The Environment Agency (EA) has issued a  regulatory position statement (RPS) that applies to any metal recycling site with a permit that allows the storage of catalytic converters.

Catalytic converters, including diesel particulate filters (DPFs), may contain refractory ceramic fibre (RCF) matting that is considered to be hazardous waste, and businesses must use the List of Waste code 16 01 21* on consignment notes and waste returns.

If the existing permit does not allow waste with that code to be accepted, the operator has until 31 August 2017 to vary its permit.

The EA says sites complying with the conditions of the RPS can continue to bulk up and store whole catalytic converters during this process.

Howard Bluck, technical director of the British Metals Recycling Association, said the temportary RPS was a natural response to concerns over the health of workers in the end-of-life vehicle sector.

“Since many RCFs are classified as a Category 2 carcinogen, there are concerns among the industry regarding the long-term health effects associated with occupational exposure. Additionally, many are concerned that they may face future compensation claims from workers exposed to RCF that go on to develop illnesses including respiratory illness, lung cancer or mesothelioma.”

Bluck said the BMRA was working closely with the EA and the Health & Safety Executive, and seeking information from vehicle manufacturers on the historic and current use of RCF in catalytic convertors.

“We want to ensure that the health and safety of workers in the metal recycling industry is protected and that any environmental risks associated with our activities are properly managed and minimised,” he said.

Operators must:

  • have an environmental permit that allows them to accept List of Waste code 16 01 22 or non-hazardous catalytic converters
  • comply fully with the requirements of the hazardous waste regulations, such as using consignment notes and completing consignee returns
  • store and transport the catalytic converters and DPFs in a way that does not result in piercing or damage to the metal casing
  • double-bag in a minimum of 400-gauge polyethylene, or wrap in a minimum of 400-gauge polyethylene sheeting, any catalytic converter unit or DPF with a damaged metal casing

Operators must not:

  • store more than 50 tonnes of hazardous waste, including catalytic converters containing RCF, at their site at any one time
  • treat (de-can) or carry out further processing of catalytic converters or DPFs on-site

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