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


Memorandum submitted by the Environment Agency


The Environment Agency

  The Environment Agency welcomes this opportunity to submit a memorandum on the effects of European Council Regulation 2037/2000 on Ozone Depleting Substances on the disposal of refrigeration units since 1 January 2002 and on the Government's preparations for the coming into force of the Regulation.

  The Environment Agency ("the Agency") is a statutory body created by the Environment Act 1995. The Agency has a regulatory role in relation to emissions to atmosphere and is the waste regulation authority for England and Wales.


  Council Regulation No 2037/2000 on substances that deplete the ozone layer ("the Regulation") was published on 29 June 2000 and applied from 1 October 2000.

  The Regulation applies to the production, importation, exportation, placing on the market, use, recovery, recycling and reclamation and destruction of ozone depleting substances ("ODS"), to the reporting of information on these substances and to the importation, exportation, placing on the market and use of products and equipment containing ODS.

  Article 11 prohibits the export of equipment containing ODS from the European Community (the "EC"). This applies even where the equipment is capable of being used.

  Central to this Inquiry is Article 16 of the Regulation.

  Article 16 requires the recovery for destruction (the "recovery") of any ODS contained within the following equipment:

    —  refrigeration and air conditioning equipment;

    —  equipment containing solvents; and

    —  fire protection and extinguishing equipment.

  ODS must be recovered during servicing and maintenance of equipment and before it is recycled, reclaimed, dismantled or disposed of. This applied to commercial and industrial appliances from October 2000 and to domestic appliances from 1 January 2002. This includes domestic fridges and freezers.

  The recovery of ODS from other (non-specified) products is also required, where practicable.

  Member States are required to assign responsibility for compliance to appropriate bodies and to report to the Commission on the systems established and quantities of ODS recovered.

  For the purposes of Article 16 ODS means Chlorofluorocarbons ("CFCs"), hydrochlorofluorocarbons ("HCFCs"), halons, 1,1,1 trichlorethane, carbon tetrachloride and bromochloromethane. These substances are used mainly in refrigeration, air conditioning, foam blowing, as solvents and in fire fighting.



  There was widespread misunderstanding of the requirements of Article 16 of the Regulation and particularly the extent to which it applied to fridges (commercial/ industrial or domestic) or whether it only applied to these items "where practicable".

  In addition, there appears to have been confusion within DEFRA about whether the Regulation applied to ODS contained in the insulation foam as well as that in the cooling systems of fridges. This is significant because whilst the removal of ODS from cooling systems (through "de-gassing") has been common place, ODS has not been recovered from the insulation foam in the UK and no facilities exist for doing so. Insulation foam contains between two and four times as much ODS as fridge cooling systems.

  The Agency understands that in June 2001 Government clarified with the EC that the Regulation required the removal of all ODS from domestic fridges from January 2002.


  As a European Regulation the ODS Regulation is binding in its entirety and is directly applicable in all Member States. However it does require the Member State to take certain actions to implement it, including prescribing necessary penalties relating to breaches of the Regulation; the latter were required to be notified to the EC by 31 December 2000.

  The Government has prepared draft Regulations (The Environmental Protection (Controls on Ozone Depleting Substances) Regulations). Those Regulations prescribe the Secretary of State as being the Competent Authority. Reference is also made to other bodies, including the Agency, although it is not entirely clear as to the respective roles of those bodies under the Regulations. The Agency understands that Government intends to prepare a Memorandum of Understanding to clarify the respective roles of Government, Customs and Excise, Health and Safety Executive, Local Authorities and the Agency.

  In October 2001 the Agency commented on the draft Regulations and in particular on enforcement issues arising from Article 16. Whilst it was commonly held that fridges should not be disposed of after 1 January 2002 unless the ODS had first been removed, clarification was required on:

    —  is responsible for meeting this requirement;

    —  how it is to be enforced; and

    —  the interface between these Regulations and the Duty of Care (Section 34 Environmental Protection Act (EPA) 1990) on all persons handling waste.

  Further, industry was looking for assurances from the Agency that the Regulation would be enforced before investing in appropriate recovery facilities.

  The Agency is the competent authority under the Waste Framework Directive in respect of the permitting of waste disposal and recovery activities. The Agency has therefore assumed a role in respect of Article 16 but limited it to the regulation of the recovery of ODS from waste equipment ie that which has been discarded or is intended or required to be discarded. The Agency has no involvement in the regulation of fridge maintenance.

  In the absence of the Regulations being made and without the provision of any specific powers, any action by the Agency would need to be under its existing Part II EPA 1990 powers. It had previously been suggested by DEFRA that Government guidance (Circular 11/94) would be amended to clarify that ODS contained within fridge insulation foam came within the remit of existing waste management legislation; the Agency is not aware whether this is being pursued.


Fridge collection and recovery infrastructure

  Between 2.5 and 3 million fridges arise in the UK for recovery or disposal each year. Before the Regulation came into effect 40-50 per cent of those were exported for re-use in developing countries, 15 per cent were refurbished for use in this country and the rest were recycled through the metal recycling industry or disposed of to landfill.

  Government initiated discussions between industry (including retailers and the metal recycling/waste management industry), local authorities and the Agency. Possible impacts of the Regulation were identified as being that:

    —  Retailers' take-back schemes were likely to cease;

    —  Fridge collection and disposal could fall increasingly on Local Authorities;

    —  Export of fridges outside the EC would have to cease (although exports within the EC for recovery can continue)

    —  Existing metal recycling sites were likely to stop taking fridges; and

    —  As result of the above, there would be an increased risk of fly-tipping.

  The following priorities were identified to deal with the above impacts:

    —  Maintain as far as possible the existing collection/take back arrangements;

    —  Provision of appropriately authorised recovery/destruction capacity; and

    —  In the interim, appropriately authorised/located fridge storage capacity.

  The Agency does not have a direct role in the first of these but has assisted by clarifying the regulatory requirements. The Agency has encouraged Government and local authorities to undertake appropriate publicity to address public and industry confusion about the impacts of the Regulation on domestic fridges. The Agency has also recommended to Government that it monitors the level of fridge storage, treatment and export.


  The primary role of the Agency has been to work with Government to ensure the provision of a clear and proportionate regulatory framework, firstly for fridge storage, and secondly the recovery of ODS from those fridges.

Fridge storage

  It was not clear initially whether Government wished to see the 1 January 2002 date enforced for domestic fridges, particularly given that suitable recovery technology was not available in the UK. Once it has been clarified that fridges should be stored pending the provision of that technology (unlikely before summer 2002) it became apparent that storage capacity for between 1.5 and 2.5 million fridges would be required.

  The Agency worked with Government to clarify the regulatory requirements for such storage thereby assisting local authorities and industry in providing suitable sites. Consideration was given to whether fridge storage could take place under an exemption from waste management licensing, thereby minimising the regulatory burden. However, the Agency was concerned that this was not lawful (current exemptions only allow storage of waste fridges at the site of production). Full licensing controls were also considered necessary to prevent subsequent abandonment of fridge storage sites. The Agency confirmed this with Government and standards for safe storage were developed and published on Government and Agency web sites.

  The Agency also prepared a standard licence for fridge storage and provided generic guidance on issues such as charging and "fit and proper person" requirements to ensure consistency and facilitate determination of applications. The Agency currently has16 new fridge storage applications in process.

  Given the time taken to obtain the necessary clarity, the Agency was concerned whether sufficient authorised facilities would be in place by the end of 2001. Whilst there was some existing licensed capacity, it was not adequate for the anticipated demand; obtaining the necessary planning permission and waste management licence for new sites would take some time.

  The Agency therefore adopted an "enforcement position" on 28 December 2001. This position, which was publicised on the Agency's web site, states that providing certain conditions are met, the Agency will not normally take enforcement action against failure to hold a waste management licence for the storage of fridges. Those conditions include the requirement for

    —  a licence application to be submitted and pursued by the operator;

    —  the site to be operated in accordance with the fridge storage licence standards; and

    —  the activities to not cause environmental pollution/harm to human health.

  The Agency understands that this has had the effect of considerably easing the fridge storage issue.

ODS Recovery

  The Agency and Government have held discussions with industry on proposed techniques for ODS extraction and destruction; the latter will normally be by high temperature incineration. The Agency identified existing authorised incineration capacity that could handle fridges in compliance with the Regulation. There are two plants in England and Wales, one of which can only take insulation panels and not whole fridges. More widespread facilities are needed and a number of companies expressed interest in importing technology.

  The Agency has worked with Government to clarify the regulatory requirements for such technology. Depending on the nature of the activity being undertaken, either a waste management licence (under Part II EPA 1990) or a pollution prevention and control permit (under the Pollution and Prevention and Control Regulations 2000) would be required. Most of the proposals to date are for the mechanical treatment of fridges involving metal and plastic recovery and therefore require a waste management licence. A licence template for the treatment of fridges was prepared and disseminated as a working draft for consultation on 21 February 2002. There are currently proposals for up to five fixed plants in England and Wales. There are no known proposals for mechanical recovery with integral destruction which would be likely to require a PPC permit.

  Despite Agency efforts to reduce the time taken to determine such applications within the current regulatory framework there are still concerns regarding the delays in obtaining site licences. Before the Agency can issue such a licence the use of land must have the necessary planning consent. It was suggested that some of the equipment could be licensed as "mobile plant" enabling it to be used at different locations without having to seek a separate licence for each site. In order to do so, however, this type of plant would have to be prescribed as "mobile plant" under the Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994. The Agency made representations to the Government in this respect and understands that an amendment is being progressed. The Agency currently has two applications for site licences in respect of plant that is actually mobile and anticipates a further 4 mobile plant applications once the amending Regulations are made.

ODS Standards

  During January 2002 the Agency, supported by Government, commissioned work on standards for:

    —  "de-gassing", that is the removal of ODS from fridge cooling systems;

    —  recovery of ODS for destruction from insulating foams; and

    —  destruction of ODS.

  The Agency has defined (currently as a working draft for consultation) the total permitted loss of ODS from the fridge de-commissioning process and will require the operator to demonstrate how this will be met. Work continues on suitable methods and standards for monitoring of ODS within the de-commissioning process.

The Agency's Fridge Group

   In response to concerns over the impact of the Regulation the Agency created a national multi-functional team in January 2002 to:

    —  lead the Agency's contribution in securing safe storage and disposal of fridges and the destruction of associated ODS in England and Wales;

    —  maintain an overview of the scale of development of the fridge backlog, including international movements;

    —  liase with Government and ensure Secretary of State is kept informed;

    —  ensure consistency of approach;

    —  guide and supervise the permitting process, to define standards and respond to queries;

    —  minimise licensing processing times; and

    —  ensure that its Chief Executive and Directors are kept informed.

  The Agency will continue to work with Government and local authorities to monitor the impacts of the Regulation on the environment and take actions appropriate to its role to minimise those impacts.

Environment Agency

22 February 2002

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