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


Memorandum submitted by Biffa Waste Services Limited

  Biffa Waste Services is the largest waste management company operating in the UK-it is the largest wholly British owned waste management company and can justifiably claim to be the most diverse in terms of its spread of interest in industrial, commercial and domestic collection, recycling, treatment and landfill, and liquid and specialist hazardous waste management systems.

  The company has a current annualised turnover of around £600 million and is also in the top three waste management companies operating in Belgium. We are a wholly owned subsidiary of Severn Trent plc with over 110 operating centres throughout the UK. We handle 12 million tonnes of material, which is recycled, treated, or landfilled, on behalf of our extensive base of over 58,000 customers in the public, commercial and industrial sectors.

  Biffa is a significant player in the end process market for hazardous waste in the following dimensions:

    —  liquid organic and inorganic waste streams;

    —  contaminated land and landfilled solid hazardous wastes;

    —  synoptic overview of tonnages handled, national market share, operating locations and typical products together with accreditation and other aspects.

  As a major integrated waste company we would give wholehearted support for Government initiatives that result in a total ban on the landfilling of all "hazardous" wastes which have not been treated to final storage quality. This should be delivered through re-engineering processes that generate such wastes and through treatment of residual hazardous wastes to final storage quality prior to landfill. Our reasoning for such a position hinges around four key issues:

    —  Hazardous wastes and the substances that make such wastes hazardous have the potential to cause significant environmental harm. Landfill is not an appropriate waste management system for such materials, unless the hazardous substances are either rendered permanently immobile, degraded to harmless compounds or are reduced in concentration to such a degree that unacceptable pollution is avoided. Long-term storage in landfill of hazardous wastes not treated in such a way cannot be considered sustainable because containment systems will eventually fail resulting in the uncontrolled release of contaminants to the environment. We consider that the concept of hazardous waste (only) landfill sites as currently proposed to be fundamentally flawed.

    —  There will be clear benefits arising from shifting the management of such wastes from low technology to higher technology, less environmentally damaging exit routes/management systems.

    —  Environmental best practice is a major issue for our shareholders and most others. In many ways hazardous wastes are at the forefront of driving wider awareness (both for the general public and corporate sectors) on the nature of and need for improved management practices with regard to waste. A clear tenet of the Landfill Directive is the reduction of the hazardousness of wastes prior to landfill.

    —  It is in our interests to reduce our future balance sheet exposure, which might flow from future environmental liabilities associated with landfill, particularly of hazardous wastes. Whilst we recognise that properly managed landfill is appropriate in today's context, assessments of risk in the future alter and we therefore advocate and adopt a precautionary approach. Historically we have not relied on regulatory or legislative frameworks to minimise risk-we have voluntarily adopted bans of certain materials to our landfill sites even where we are legally entitled to accept them within the terms of our operating licences. These self-imposed bans have resulted in a significant loss of revenue over time. Particular examples include bans on the landfilling of liquid wastes from 1989, bulk quantities of tyres from 1990, fluorescent tubes in bulk from 1998, and the adoption of loading rate limits to control the total quantities of certain contaminants accepted in our landfill sites.


  In support of our recommended approach we offer a number of key foundations on which a hazardous waste strategy needs to be supported and defined by Government:

    —  an explicit integrated regulatory framework that clearly defines responsibilities, obligations and requirements

    —  availability and certainty regarding the suitability of alternative waste treatment technologies

    —  assurances from the regulator that there will be a level playing field with regard to enforcement

    —  a defined liability and chargeable chain of responsibility for the waste materials pre and post treatment.

    —  an appropriate and explicit planning and permitting framework that the waste industry and Government operate to and which is integrated with the required dates for meeting new obligations.

  A strategic planning framework is needed, probably based on individual waste streams, or families of related wastes, that develops protocols for the future management of the wastes. The framework will need to be represented by the regulator, NGOs, the waste industry, DEFRA, DTI, consumer groups and CBI as appropriate.

  Priorities could be set based on scale and risk. This would enable the identification of the BPEO for the individual waste types and assist in the identification of BAT for the treatment processes thereby creating the necessary legal frame and development certainty. Through effective and consistent regulation and enforcement, appropriate investment conditions would then be created which would bring forward the development of the requisite infrastructure by industry.

  Alongside the strategic planning framework, there should be economic working groups established with representation from the same types of bodies. The focus of these groups would be to identify the outline cost/regulatory impact assessments and recommend to Government an appropriate charging framework. Our personal preference is to establish these initiatives in the context of Producer Responsibility on a single point basis with an agreed framework of financial offsets available to obligated companies in the form of NIC reduction, VAT adjustment, tax claw backs or similar measures. Offsets should permit obligated companies to accept end life management cost liability in year one at zero (neutral) cost and then provide for a forward programme of removal of the financial support so that over that period the threat to UK inflationary pressures and to corporate profitability for the obligated product does not suffer unduly.

  Finally, a fully integrated regulatory framework is required as opposed to a piecemeal implementation of Directives. The current approach of Government to the implementation of Directives appears to be more concerned with the avoidance of infraction proceedings than creating clarity and certainty for those directly impacted by the legislation. The Landfill Regulations 2002 are considered to contain many loopholes that could have been addressed by a more strategic and considered approach to the requirements.


  A number of specific aspects of hazardous waste management have been identified and our comments and observations are set out under these issues.

  List I and II substances to the environment and the mismatch between discharge to sewer and surface water.

  The impact on hazardous waste disposal of past changes in legislation governing landfill, and, with regard to hazardous waste, the adequacy of preparations for the implementation of the Landfill Directive (Council Directive 99/31/EC) in the draft Landfill (England and Wales) Regulations 2002

  Government, the regulator, and consequently waste producers and the waste management industry are ill prepared for the implementation of the Landfill Directive and the apparent consequences for the future management of hazardous wastes. The concept of hazardous waste landfill sites as currently envisaged, and apparently supported by the recently released draft TAC (Technical Adaptation Committee) waste acceptance criteria, is fundamentally flawed.

  There is currently no information or guidance on what will constitute a hazardous waste landfill facility, despite the fact that all hazardous wastes will have to be landfilled in such sites from July 2004. There are significant concerns regarding how such sites are to be designed, operated, and managed and what environmental control systems will be required. Such sites will be operated under PPC permits that will have no reasonable prospect of ever being capable of being surrendered hence will remain as a permanent balance sheet liability.

  The absence of clear guidance on these aspects will result in the continuation of the view of the majority of companies in the waste management sector that there will be no hazardous waste landfill sites post 16 July 2004 hence no facilities for the disposal of hazardous wastes after this date.

  The ongoing delay in the publication of waste acceptance criteria means that it has been impossible for waste producers and waste management companies to plan and make provision for appropriate waste treatment facilities for hazardous wastes. The conclusions of the TAC will effectively define the minimum waste treatment standards to be satisfied. When the necessary information is available, the timescale for planning, permitting, developing and commissioning such facilities is likely to be extremely protracted. To date, REPAC's will be unable to make any valid determinations or assessments of the future need for such waste management facilities for planning purposes.

  To date, all wastes accepted for co-disposal at landfill sites have been assessed on the basis of an analysis of the total concentrations of contaminants within the waste regardless of the degree to which such contaminants will be released post landfilling. Attempts to assess wastes on the basis of the quantities of contaminants that may be leached from a waste have historically been rejected by the regulator. The approach adopted by the TAC is based on the use of leachate tests. There is currently little or no data available for the leachable properties of hazardous wastes and no established commercially available capacity for the analysis methods.

  To address the problems of long term liabilities associated with hazardous waste landfill sites as currently envisaged, we promoted the case for hazardous wastes to be treated to "final storage quality". Under these conditions, hazardous wastes would be treated to a condition where they represent no future environmental liability. This approach would be fully sustainable, would internalise all costs associated with the management of hazardous wastes, would address public concerns regarding the management of hazardous wastes and would address concerns regarding long term or permanent storage of wastes. This approach has been rejected by DEFRA but the reasons for the rejection are ill considered.

  The alternative approach would be for hazardous wastes landfill sites to be the responsibility of central Government, and operated under contract by the waste management industry. Such an approach may be necessary if new sites are to be approved under land-use planning and permitting systems which are likely to result in widespread and concerted opposition by the communities within which such facilities are proposed.

  The effect of the introduction of the European waste catalogue will be to significantly increase the quantities of hazardous wastes and the number of producers of hazardous waste. However, the majority of the new producers will be SME's which currently have little or no knowledge of the new regulatory systems. Consequently a major education programme is required and considerably increased regulatory and enforcement resources.

  The overall approach to the Landfill Directive has been reactive, provided too little detailed consultation in respect of hazardous wastes, and has been conducted without the benefit of an over-arching policy by Government, which should have been defined in Waste Strategy 2000. Finally, it should be recognised that the timetable for implementation of the Directive has been largely ignored such that the implementing regulations should have been in place before July 2001. The consequence of this is that there are significant gaps in the requisite general and technical guidance.

  The steps taken by the Government to prepare for the implementation of the Incineration of Hazardous Waste Directive (Council Directive 94/67/EC) and the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive (Council Directive 96/61/EC), as well as the End-of-Life Vehicles Directive (Council Directive 2000/53/EC) and the proposed Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive in as much as they deal with hazardous or special wastes

  Biffa Waste Services Ltd do not operate any high temperature hazardous waste incinerators, we therefore have no comment to make regarding the implementation of the Incineration of Hazardous Waste Directive. However, we are concerned about the lack of joined up thinking with respect to the LFD corrosive ban and waste acceptance criteria and effects of these upon the disposal of incinerator residues. A consistent policy in respect of ELV's is essential, particularly in respect of "de-polluting vehicles". However, as this sector has lobbied successfully for delays in the implementation of legislation, and is still not required to operate even within the provisions of the Duty of Care, we anticipate that further significant delays will continue leading to delays in addressing the management of hazardous wastes from end of life vehicles.


  DEFRA have consulted on proposals for a review of the Special waste regulations and our response to this is attached. To date no response or further dialogue has taken place.

  The work undertaken to date fails to address the problem associated with the anticipated significant increase in the number of hazardous waste producers following the implementation of the EWC. The number of producers could increase by 200 per cent to 600,000 with commensurate increases in resources required to administer systems.

  There will be very significant increases in the quantities of hazardous wastes but, as indicated above, there is currently no information available regarding the manner in which these wastes should be managed under the new regime. There appears to be little recognition of the scale of the problem but the implementation of the Directive could result in 2.5 million tonnes of hazardous wastes being diverted from landfill with currently less than 1M tonnes of treatment capacity available.

  The Environment Agency has consulted on the requirements for the pre-treatment of wastes required to satisfy Article 6a of the Landfill Directive. Because of significant delays with the drafting of the 2002 Regulations, the consultation had to refer to the Directive, which industry is not bound by. The consultation failed to adequately address the treatment requirements for hazardous wastes and there consequently remains considerable uncertainty regarding what will be required to discharge "treatment" obligations. We are particularly concerned that the draft Landfill Regulations do not support the assertion within the (non-statutory) guidance that compaction does not constitute treatment. Ongoing delay puts back the date by which investment in new infrastructure will commence. What is clear is that existing treatment infrastructure is unsuitable for a significant proportion of hazardous wastes and that new facilities will be required. In addition to the unsuitable investment conditions, there is no planning framework within which such facilities could be brought forward.

  The absence of clear guidance, certainty of requirements, and a risk of regulatory inconsistency will result in a hiatus in July 2004 when existing landfills are required to cease to accept hazardous wastes. With the delays that have occurred it now seems inevitable that the requite treatment infrastructure will not be available until much later. Contingency plans are therefore required to deal with hazardous wastes post July 2004.

Biffa Waste Services Limtied

May 2002

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