Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Correspondence from the Environment Agency to Biffa Waste Services Ltd 5 April 2002

  I am writing further to your letter dated 19 October 2001 and my initial response regarding the role of the regulator in being more or less prescriptive in specifying BPEO. Please accept my apologies for the delay in providing a full response.

  The legislative approach taken to BPEO over the last decade has focussed primarily on standards, such as emission limits and technical requirements including Best Available Techniques. This is reflected in the approach taken by the Agency in not specifying appropriate technologies, but taking a risk-based approach to permitting in setting performance standards having regard for the sensitivity (or vulnerability) of the population and environment at risk.

  In the case of refrigerators, the Agency (in discussion with DEFRA) determined that the risks posed by their storage was of such a defined nature that a standard licence, applicable in all similar circumstances across the country, would provide appropriate management of the risks. Such a standard licence was released for the use of Agency Officers at the end of 2001.

  In the case of recovery of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) from refrigerators, a number of technologies already exist—principally mechanical recovery of ODS and incineration—although dismantling by hand may play a role. Accordingly we are working to define a standard for the recovery and destruction of ODS. Proposals for the treatment of refrigerators will be required to meet the standard whether the treatment will be authorised through a waste management licence or via PPC or IPC.

  The question of a standard licence for storage of frigerators have been, and the standards for treatment of refrigerator are being, developed on a strategic basis. In this work we are mindful of the need to avoid commercial monopolies in favour of only one particular type of machine.

  The Agency does have a certification scheme know as MCERTS which is concerned with certifying monitoring equipment, instruments, personnel competency and laboratories against Agency (MCERTS) performance standards. In principle, it is possible that this approach could be extended to any technologies or personnel competency issue of interest to the Agency provided that:

    (a)  A performance or competency standard could be drafted.

    (b)  Conformance testing or assessment procedures could be drafted by means of which the equipment or person could be judged as conforming to the Agency's standard.

    (c)  The arrangement would be cost effective ie the costs of conformance testing did not exceed the value of the "product".

  The Agency currently has no plans to extend this scheme to pollution abatement or recovery technologies, due to other priorities. I am copying this letter to Stuart Newstead who is leading our MCERTS work to make him aware of your interest.

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