EA temporarily relaxes waste storage limits

The Environment Agency (EA) has announced that waste storage limits on permitted waste sites can be ‘temporarily’ exceeded if Covid-19 restrictions mean that waste cannot be removed from those sites.

The notification of the relaxation of the waste storage rules was made in a regulatory position statement (RPS) published today (7 April).

Bales of recycling.The Covid-19 outbreak has been causing disruption in the waste and recycling sector, though local authorities and commercial operators have been working hard to continue to provide vital collection services during the crisis having been deemed an essential industry by the government.

Regulatory and operational flexibility has already been granted in certain areas relating to waste and recycling operations, with flexibility granted to landfill operators when calculating Landfill Tax by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency’s (DVSA) suspension of MOT testing for Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) including refuse collection vehicles (RCVs).

The EA’s latest RPS states that flexibility only applies if operators can demonstrate the need to temporarily store more waste than their waste permit allows and to wastes that they are authorised to store under the terms of their permit.

Operators must be able to demonstrate that they have taken all reasonable steps to comply with their permit, including making contingency plans to avoid or minimise Covid-19 disruption, planning to minimise the impact and duration of not being able to comply with their permit and to minimise how far waste storage limits are exceeded.

A number of conditions need to be complied with in order to qualify for the RPS, including having written agreement from the landowner before increasing the amount of waste stored, rotating waste on site so that waste stored on the site first is removed from the site first and conducting a written review of the risks of storing additional waste on the site and how it will affect management systems and fire prevention plans.

Enforcement action will not be undertaken against operators provided they comply with the conditions set out by the Covid-19 RPS and their activity does not cause damage to the environment to human health.

Operators will have to notify the EA before using the RPS, which will be withdrawn on 30 September 2020 unless the EA decides to extend it.

Commenting on the EA’s announcement, Jacob Hayler, Executive Director of the Environmental Services Association (ESA) said: “The Regulatory Position Statement released today is important because it relieves some of the pressure facing waste facility operators, who may accumulate more material than usual if outlets such as Materials Recycling Facilities, Energy-from-Waste plants or export operations go offline, or have reduced capacity, due to staff shortages. These measures also help to ensure that recyclable and waste material will be put to its intended use in the event of onward supply chain disruption, rather than being sent to the nearest available disposal facility.

“There are still some issues facing operators, however, such as the need to obtain landlord approval for increased storage, which may introduce additional hurdles and cause delay.

“This regulatory position is clearly not a licence to relax standards and there are many conditions that must be met in order to continue to comply with the regulations. It is also not an invitation for criminal operators to stockpile material and the EA, supported by legitimate operators, must remain vigilant to this and not relax enforcement.”

You can view the EA’s Covid-19 RPS on the regulator’s website.

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