The Environment Agency is to press ahead with plans to recover regulation costs from businesses despite warnings that anaerobic digestion (AD) plants will take an unfair financial hit.
The new charging scheme will apply to most businesses from 1 April, and covers environmental permits, WEEE producer compliance schemes and waste brokers.
The EA is also introducing a paid-for service to give formal definition of waste opinions, for which the initial fee will be £750. This will replace the EA’s Definition of Waste Panel, which was scrapped in December 2016 due to staff cuts.
A consultation on the proposed charges launched last year led to warnings from the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA) that the cost of an AD permit could double in price.
In its consultation response, the EA said it was concerned with the effect on waste businesses and SMEs, but added: “Our detailed analysis using Companies House data suggested that only a handful of small businesses (less than 0.2% of all the firms we regulate) could face any significant impact from charge increases.
“Based on this analysis, we believe the charge changes will have no significant overall economic impact.”
The EA said that it would press ahead with planned increases to land spreading of waste charges despite industry concerns, “as investment is needed to deal with the environmental risks and compliance levels within this sector”.
ADBA chief executive Charlotte Morton said the EA had done little to allay the “significant concerns” of its members over the increased charges.
“We continue to believe that these changes are unjustified and are likely to have a detrimental impact on the AD industry, which is already under significant financial pressure despite the wide range of benefits it offers in terms of reducing emissions from farming, producing home-grown renewable heat and power, restoring the UK’s degraded soils, and providing the only means of extracting maximum value from organic wastes, all of which are key government policy goals,” she added.
The EA is also to implement a “subsistence charge” on WEEE producer compliance schemes of £12,500 in 2019.
Robbie Staniforth, policy manager at compliance scheme Ecosurety, said, “We have always believed that compliance schemes need to be regulated, just like the rest of interest groups involved in producer compliance. The introduction of a subsistence fee for schemes will help to ensure that the Environment Agency is adequately funded to ensure they enforce the law.
“However, we are disappointed in the increase in fees that will be charged to many large producers. Producers already pay fees based on the amount of EEE they produce, which is the most effective way to encourage quality recycling and investment in the UK’s recycling infrastructure.”