Memorandum submitted by Shanks Group plc
There is a clear need for a new national framework
for the management of hazardous waste. The framework should focus
more on the producer of waste (including households) and should
prohibit environmentally unacceptable treatment methods. Increased
costs should be managed through producer responsibility which
will discourage the production of hazardous waste.
The period 2004-08 represents an environmentally
unsustainable period for the landfill of hazardous waste due to
poorly defined acceptance criteria. The acceptance criteria for
this period must be reassessed and published in sufficient time.
The Committee should not listen to "prophecies
of doom" regarding the availability of, and capacity for,
alternative treatment technologies. Hazardous waste treatment
capacity has seriously declined in recent years as the regulatory
framework has not generated demand. Shanks, in common with other
industry participants, successfully operates alternative treatment
technologies on the continent. The technologies and the readiness
to invest are here. It is not too late (although very nearly)
to ensure the legislative and regulatory framework provides the
climate for action on our sustainable future.
Shanks Group plc is one of the UK's largest
waste management companies and, with its operations in Belgium
and The Netherlands, is also a leading independent player in the
European market. Beyond Europe, Shanks is also active through
its environmental remediation services. As a Group, Shanks employs
over 4,500 people, based at more than 120 sites and involved in
The Group provides an extensive range of waste
management services and handles a wide variety of wastes, including
domestic refuse, commercial waste, contaminated spoils and hazardous
waste. Operations range from collections, domestic and commercial
waste recycling, thermal treatment systems, industrial cleaning
and special waste treatment, to high temperature incineration
and modern landfill. Shanks is one of the largest generators of
electricity from landfill gas and produces a range of fuel-from-waste
Within the UK, a wide range of activities processing
an annual total of approximately 150,000 tonnes of hazardous waste
is carried out by the Shanks Chemical Services division.
The inquiry is welcome and it is timely as the
UK waste management industry is at the threshold of the largest
single legislative and regulatory upheaval in its history.
The hazardous waste processing industry has
little natural demand. History has proven that whilst hazardous
waste is allowed to be managed indiscriminately, no environmentally
sustainable treatment capacity can survive economically. All significant
demand, therefore, accrues from informed legislation and its effective
In 1989 the then HoC Environment Committee observed
in their report on Toxic Waste: (Footnote1) "Never in any
of our enquiries into environmental problems have we experienced
such consistent and universal criticism of existing legislation
and of central and local government as we have during the course
of this inquiry."
Since 1989 there have been some improvements
in the regulatory system, most notably the establishment in 1996
of the Environment Agency. Significant weaknesses still remain,
The focus of regulatory action is on the waste
processor not the waste producer.
ie The system has been good at ensuring hazardous
waste processing facilities are to the requisite standard but
lamentable at ensuring their use. Processing plants have received
significant and ultimately fruitless investment whilst too much
hazardous waste has been allowed to landfill. (See Appendix 2:
Case StudyPontypool High Temperature Incinerator.)
There must be a national hazardous
waste plan which prohibits inappropriate treatment for hazardous
This action plan should not prescribe particular
treatments but proscribe unacceptable options. In this way sustainability
is achieved without stifling innovation and competition.
Current landfill practice relies upon the co-disposal
technique to reduce waste (both hazardous and non-hazardous) to
an inert state over time, say within a generation. From 2008 the
expected regime for hazardous waste will require its treatment
to Final Storage Quality (FSQ) prior to the landfill. Using this
regime unmanageable environmentally damaging processes will not
occur in the landfill post the deposit of waste. However, a significant
problem will arise in the 2004-08 period. From 2004 co-disposal
is outlawed but until 2008 hazardous waste will not be required
to be treated to FSQ.
There is a significant risk therefore that hazardous
waste landfills used in 2004-08 will never be environmentally
Consequently, it is unlikely that the private
sector will be prepared to operate in this regime for fear of
Fiscal measures could be utilised to accelerate
the provision of facilities to treat hazardous waste to FSQ. During
the period prior to 2008, a higher rate of Landfill Tax, for example,
could be introduced specifically for hazardous waste which does
not meet the acceptance criteria as agreed by the Technical Adaptation
The deadline to pretreat hazardous
waste to FSQ should be brought forward to 2004 (preferable) or
the end of co-disposal delayed until 2008.
A new fiscal measure to encourage
the earlier provision and use of new treatment facilities for
hazardous waste should be announced prior to 2004.
The Landfill Directive has significant impacts
for the future management of all categories of waste. Currently,
the co-disposal technique is often relied upon to reduce household
hazardous waste to an environmentally benign state. Post 2004
co-disposal is outlawed, therefore household hazardous waste should
be separately collected.
Systems for the separate collection
of household hazardous waste should be put in place.
Shanks Group plc
17 May 2002