WRA to challenge hazardous waste regulations

The Wood Recyclers’ Association is challenging new hazardous waste regulations, which it fears will damage the waste wood supply chain.

Wood for recyclingThis follows a decision made by the Environment Agency (EA) to extend the current Regulatory Positions Statement (RPS 207) until the end of July 2021.

The end of the current RPS will bring in new regulations, which will see items such as fence posts and decking highlighted as potentially hazardous.

The WRA is concerned this will decimate the supply of waste wood feedstock for panel board manufacturers.

“Household waste wood is an important feedstock for UK panel board manufacturing, as well as playing a major part in the achievement of recycling rates for local authorities,” commented Andy Hill, Chair of the WRA.

The EA has also asked the WRA to work with Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) to begin the segregation of fence posts and decking when they come onto recycling sites.

The WRA is concerned this could deter people from taking the wood to recycling sites, leading to an increase in fly-tipping or illegal burning, which poses a greater environmental risk.

Some recycling sites may also not be big enough to begin the separation of fence posts and decking.

Hill continued: “There is no benefit in segregating this wood and there is no risk to the environment if this doesn’t happen. We firmly believe that the EA proposal and the regulations as they stand are not risk based or proportionate.”

The WRA has written to the EA to request an 18-month extension to the current RPS.

This would give time for the WRA to continue work on a sampling and testing programme as part of its Waste Wood Classification Project, which aims to prove that hazardous content in fence posts and decking is diminishing.

From sampling and testing to date, the WRA has found that 6 per cent of fence posts and decking are hazardous, which equates to 0.01 per cent of the UK’s annual waste wood.

“From previous discussions we have had with the regulators we anticipated they would continue to allow us to move household waste wood as non-hazardous for the relatively short period of time we would need to demonstrate that the items with potentially hazardous content are no longer in the household waste wood chain,” said Hill.

“In the meantime we are asking for an 18 month extension to the RPS to allow us to continue with our sampling and testing work, and to give us time to challenge the regulation without having a major impact on the panel board industry’s supply chain.”

The WRA has written to the Head of Waste Regulation at the EA, stating it plans to challenge the regulations in the New Year.

The WRA will also be writing to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in the New Year, with support from the key stakeholders in waste wood classification.

Gayle Whittaker from the WRA laid out the next steps for the organisation: “The first step is to talk further to the regulators and to explain to Defra why we are challenging the regulations.

“We will then review our options ahead of formally making the challenge, suffice to say we know we need to challenge why such a small and diminishing amount cannot be allowed to continue to go into panel board manufacturing."