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

Memorandum submitted by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs


  1.  Waste generally poses a greater risk than a corresponding product, simply because it has been discarded and therefore tends to have a lower value to the owner. However, hazardous waste differs from most other types of waste in that it poses an intrinsic risk to human health and/or the environment. It is therefore important that hazardous waste is managed in a way that minimises this risk, from the point at which it arises to the point at which it is disposed of or returned to use. Similarly, while all waste management facilities should meet stringent environmental standards, those that receive hazardous waste may need to reach still tougher requirements that reflect the nature of the materials that are processed.

  2.  These points have been recognised by the international community, as well as domestically. Within Europe, Directives on Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Waste Incineration set out rigorous controls over and above those that are required for other wastes. Similarly, the Landfill Directive and the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive contain separate provisions for facilities that receive hazardous waste. At a global level, the Basel Convention, the only multilateral environmental agreement that deals specifically with waste, focuses on the need to minimise the production and movement of hazardous waste and to ensure its environmentally sound management.


  3.  As set out in Waste Strategy 2000, the Government is committed to reducing the risks associated with the handling and management of hazardous waste by:

    1.  Reducing quantities of hazardous wastes.

    2.  Reducing the hazardousness of wastes.

    3.  Ensuring that hazardous wastes are managed safely.

  4.  This memorandum explains the drivers that support these aims and the measures that Government is taking to achieve them.

  5.  The Government is also committed to the principles of self-sufficiency and proximity in respect of the management of waste produced in the UK. It follows from this that we wish to maintain a network of facilities to enable all hazardous wastes to be dealt with appropriately and in accordance with all relevant environmental standards.

What is hazardous waste?

  There are various definitions of hazardous waste that have been developed by a range of bodies, including the UNEP Basel Convention, the OECD, the European Union and the UK Government. However, the most important of these is probably the European hazardous waste list.

  Wastes classified as hazardous in the European list display one or more of the fourteen hazard characteristics defined in the Dangerous Substances Directive (in some cases at levels above specified thresholds). The hazardous waste list was initially agreed in 1994 to define the scope of the Hazardous Waste Directive. This original list included around 200 wastes. Examples included most forms of asbestos, waste mineral oils, organic solvents, lead-acid batteries and many wastes from chemical processes. Domestic waste was generally excluded.

  The list has been revised and added to subsequently, largely through amendments agreed in 1999 and 2000. Newly hazardous wastes include end-of-life vehicles, TVs and PC monitors, fluorescent lamps and contaminated soil. Again, domestic waste is generally excluded, although separately collected household hazardous waste is now listed as hazardous.

  The hazardous waste list has gained increasing significance since 1994-it is also cross-referred to by the Directives on Hazardous Waste Incineration, Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control and Landfill. Consequently, the UK's domestic transposition of these measures also refers to the list.

  In the UK, the hazardous waste list has been implemented through the Special Waste Regulations 1996. However, the definition of "special waste" differs from the original hazardous waste list in several ways. In some respects, it goes wider than the European list. For example, all prescription only medicines are special waste, as are all wastes that display particular hazardous properties, regardless of whether they are on the hazardous waste list. On the other hand, wastes that are on the list are excluded from the definition of special waste if they do not exhibit hazardous properties above threshold levels set out in the Special Waste Regulations.

  6.  Many of these inconsistencies were resolved through the later revisions to the hazardous waste list. The Government proposes to address most of the remainder through its current review of the Special Waste Regulations-including the replacement of the term "special waste" with "hazardous waste".


  7.  Around five million tonnes of special waste are produced every year in England and Wales. The most significant hazardous waste streams by mass are oily wastes and construction and demolition wastes, largely contaminated soil. Quantities of waste produced that is classified as hazardous will increase significantly under the new hazardous waste list.

  8.  Almost half of all special waste is currently disposed in landfill sites. The remainder is either disposed of or recycled by a number of different means.

Waste fate
Quantity (Tonnes)
% of whole
Incineration with energy recovery
Incineration without energy recovery
Long term storage
Other Fate
Transfer (Short term)

Control of hazardous waste management facilities

  9.  Facilities for the management of hazardous waste are controlled under a variety of permitting regimes. Most waste management facilities require a waste management licence, under Part II of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Waste Management Licensing Regulation 1994. The licence will require that facilities are operated in a manner that protects human health and the environment.

  10.  However, an increasing number of facilities require permits under other regimes. Most waste incinerators, including all hazardous waste incinerators need to be authorised under the integrated pollution control system under Part I of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA). Consequently, their operators need to be able to demonstrate the use of the best available techniques not entailing excessive cost (BATNEEC) to minimise emissions to air, water and land. The authorisation also requires compliance with the provisions of the Hazardous Waste Incineration Directive.

  Part I of the EPA is being subsumed by the Pollution Prevention and Control (England and Wales) Regulations 2000 and the similar requirement for Best Available Techniques (BAT) to be used. Permits for incinerators including hazardous waste incinerators are now issued under these regulations.

Controls over the movement of hazardous waste

  11.  The Special Waste Regulations 1996 were made in order to transpose the requirements of the Hazardous Waste Directive, which sets out a system for the controlled management of hazardous waste. The Regulations contain procedures to be followed when disposing of, carrying and receiving special waste and enable the Environment Agency to track special waste from the point at which it is produced to the point of final disposal. This encourages better management of these potentially hazardous wastes.

  12.  In view of the recent changes to the Hazardous Waste List and other changes in the field of waste management, the Special Waste Regulations 1996 are currently being reviewed. See later paragraphs.

  Imports and exports of hazardous waste

  The UK has a long-standing commitment to self-sufficiency in the management of all waste, including hazardous waste. The Government also believes that it should encourage other countries, particularly those from the developed world, to be self-sufficient.

  13.  To this end, the UK Plan for the Exports and Imports of Waste, published in 1996, bans all exports of waste for disposal, as well as most imports. Exceptions are made in the case of wastes from countries that cannot reasonably be expected to develop their own facilities for management of particular wastes, as well as imports from Portugal or Ireland for high temperature incineration. These exceptions reflect the fact the high capital and operating costs of hazardous waste facilities and the need to participate fully in the destruction of stockpiles of materials such as pesticides in developing countries. Nevertheless, the UK is a strong advocate of capacity building as a means of minimising international shipments of hazardous waste.

  14.  Waste destined for recovery can generally be traded freely between OECD countries, in a similar way to any other raw material. However, under the European Waste Shipment Regulation, exports of all hazardous wastes to non-OECD countries are banned, to ensure that they are only received at environmentally sound facilities. This is consistent with the ban amendment to the Basel Convention, which the UK ratified in 1999.


Waste Strategy 2000

  15.  Waste Strategy 2000 explained the need to reduce the production of all waste and to ensure that, where waste unavoidably is produced, the best use should be made of the resources within it.

  16  The requirement to reduce waste production is all the greater in the case of hazardous waste. In addition to the drive towards greater sustainability and better resource management, there is a clear need to reduce the particular risks associated with the movement and management of hazardous waste. Similarly, there are compelling reasons to ensure that hazardous waste facilities comply with tough environmental standards that reflect the nature of the wastes that are handled.


  The Landfill Directive is probably the single most significant driver for the fundamental changes to hazardous waste management that will occur over the next five years. It presents particular problems for the UK because of the continuing predominance of co-disposal sites, where hazardous and non-hazardous wastes are landfilled together. Such sites, which do not generally exist in the rest of Europe, will need to be phased out by July 2004.

  17.  The Directive is a complex and highly technical piece of legislation that represents a step change in current practice not only for landfill site operators but for all waste producers. It was therefore incumbent on the Government to consult as widely as possible and to ensure that implementation proceeds as smoothly as possible.

  Two consultation papers on the implementation of the Landfill Directive have been issued. The first was published in October 2000, the second in August 2001, containing a copy of draft regulations. In addition, a number of consultation seminars on various aspects of the Directive have been held, as have regular liaison meetings with key stakeholders. These established sounding boards to discuss the proposals on a number of issues, for example to inform our negotiating stance on the waste acceptance criteria.

  18.  The responses to both consultation exercises were very thoroughly analysed and the results fed into both the development of the regulations and wider implementation policy. For example, industry's request that rather than bringing the ban on non-hazardous liquids into effect on a site-by-site basis a single national date applying to all sites should be used.

  19.  This comprehensive consultation process has contributed to the UK being late in implementing the Directive and therefore subject to infraction proceedings by the European Commission. Nevertheless, the Government believes that the substantial changes to current UK practice that the Directive introduces made such a process unavoidable.

  Recognising that local authorities and the waste industry needed some degree of certainty during the consultation process, the Environment Agency were instructed to apply the requirements of the Directive to all new sites seeking permits to operate after 16 July 2001 as far as they were able to using their existing powers under the Pollution Prevention and Control Regulations 2000 and Part II of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The requirements of the Directive do not bite on existing landfill sites until July 2002, by which time, assuming Parliamentary approval, the Regulations should be in force.

While this was considered, to push back any of the Directive's requirements in order to achieve a smoother transition would place the UK in breach of the Directive itself (rather than only late implementation) and expose us to further infraction action.

  20.  The Directive has yet to be implemented in Germany, Belgium, Portugal, Luxembourg, Greece, Italy, and Finland, all of which are subject to a Reasoned Opinion by the European Commission. A number of other Member States (eg France) also missed the July 2001 transposition date but are at an earlier stage in the infraction process.

Effects on hazardous waste management

  With effect from 16 July 2002, the Landfill Directive bans the landfilling of:

  Liquid waste

  Hazardous waste which in the conditions of landfill is explosive, oxidising, corrosive, flammable or highly flammable

  Hospital and other clinical wastes arising from medical or veterinary establishments which are infectious

  Whole used tyres from 2003 and shredded used tyres from 2006

  Any waste that does not fulfil the waste acceptance criteria

  21.  Co-disposal of hazardous waste that is not banned and non-hazardous waste can continue at hazardous waste sites until 16 July 2004. (The co-disposal of non-hazardous and inert waste is not banned by the Directive.) Latest figures suggest about 2,500,000 tonnes of hazardous waste is landfilled, approximately 600,000 tonnes of which will no longer be able to be sent to landfill following implementation of the bans in the Directive

  22.  The capacity available for the landfilling of hazardous waste that is not banned from landfill post 16 July 2002 remains unclear, despite the Department's efforts to clarify the position. The choice of what sort of site to operate has to be a commercial one for landfill site operators. The information is commercially sensitive and it is therefore unlikely that a clear picture will emerge until very close to the implementation date (operators must submit a site conditioning plan to the Environment Agency by 16 July, setting out what sort of site they wish to operate post July 2002 and post July 2004).

  23.  The Government believes that given the current uncertainty over operators short and longer term intentions it is prudent to use whatever flexibility is offered by the Directive to prepare for any shortfall in capacity. To this end it intends to:

  24.  take full advantage of any transitional period granted by the Commission to bring the European waste acceptance criteria into effect. In the meantime, our broader interim national criteria will apply. This will allow us to continue to landfill a broader range of hazardous wastes for as long as possible and give more time for alternative disposal or treatment routes to come on stream.

  25.  set single national dates for the requirement that all waste going to landfill is pre-treated to come into effect. For hazardous wastes this will probably be 2004, for non-hazardous wastes no later than 2007. This will allow more time for new treatment infrastructure to come on stream. It will also allow existing treatment capacity to concentrate in the short term on dealing with those hazardous wastes banned from landfill after July 2002.

  26.  set a single national date for implementation of the ban on non-hazardous liquids going to landfill. This will be based on current and predicted waste arisings and the availability of treatment facilities and alternative disposal routes for these wastes. In advance of the ban coming into effect, any suitable facilities will therefore be available for handling hazardous liquids, which are banned from landfill in July 2002.

  27.  DEFRA is also working closely with the Environment Agency, waste producers and the waste management industry to ensure sufficient capacity is available.

Alternative Disposal Options

  Many of the hazardous wastes to be banned from landfill are not generally landfilled in the UK at present. For those that are, research for the Department concluded that there was sufficient alternative disposal systems (in use or planned) to cope with the large volume of organic process waste streams requiring diversion from landfill. Examples given included:

  pyrolysis and gasification-commissioned in some major industrial sites already

  merchant treatment plants for organic wastes offering pre-treatment, such as air stripping or pH balancing

  existing landfill leachate plant could treat a range of aqueous organic waste streams, further developments could provide a wider range of outlets for organic wastes

  some water companies are encouraging greater use of their spare capacity in aerobic and anaerobic treatment systems

  solvent recovery plants have some spare capacity and are planning investment to recover useful materials from aqueous feedstock

  high temperature incineration

  28.  The report suggested additional facilities might be required for oily wastes, contaminated soils, and inorganic chemical wastes.

  29.  Stable and non-reactive hazardous wastes that are not banned from landfill, such as asbestos cement, can be disposed of in separate cells at non-hazardous landfill sites.

  30.  The Directive will also act as a driver for waste producers to minimise waste arisings and recycle, re-use or recover in order to divert waste from landfill.

Site Classification

  31.  Hazardous waste sites will be classified on 16 July 2002. Inert and non-hazardous sites will be classified when they receive a PPC permit. Under the interim national waste acceptance criteria set out in Schedule 1 of the Draft Landfill Regulations:

  32.  hazardous waste sites can accept wastes on the Hazardous Waste List. In addition, until July 2004 they can also accept non-hazardous wastes.

  33.  non-hazardous waste sites can accept all wastes except hazardous wastes. However, stable and non-reactive hazardous wastes can go to non-hazardous sites as long as they are landfilled in separate cells.

  34.  inert waste sites can accept wastes on the list of wastes in Schedule 1 and any other wastes which fall within the definition of inert waste in the regulations.

  35.  he criteria in Schedule 1 will be replaced in due course by the waste acceptance criteria currently close to agreement in Brussels. These will set more detailed criteria based on the achievement of limit values following leaching tests on the waste.

Site Conditioning Plans

  36.  Site Conditioning Plans must be submitted to the Environment Agency by 16 July 2002. The requirement for operators to submit site conditioning plans by 16 July 2001 has been clear since the Directive was adopted. In advance of the Regulations coming into effect, the Environment Agency has already circulated site conditioning plan packs to all operators containing a form and detailed guidance on completion. They have also held a series of seminars around the country to help operators understand what is required of them.

Waste Acceptance Criteria

  37.  The European waste acceptance criteria are currently under negotiation in Brussels. The Commission had intended to bring these negotiations to an end in July last year but in the event considered that the need for further modelling work to underpin the criteria meant that this date was unachievable. They have announced their intention to bring forward a final proposal for voting in July this year and current indications are that this deadline will be achieved.

  38.  The UK has been doing its best to drive the process forward, we have led and funded much of the modelling work that is informing the criteria, we have hosted meetings, and have emphasised to the Commission the importance we attach to securing criteria as soon as possible.

  39.  The UK has argued that given the delay in agreeing the criteria and the fact that we will need to develop infrastructure to treat waste to meet the criteria or dispose of waste that can't meet the criteria, we should be given a realistic timescale for transposing and implementing the criteria. The Commission are currently considering Member States views on implementation dates.

  The Government appreciates that the absence of agreed criteria has caused uncertainty and made operator's decisions about the type of site to operate difficult. It may also have delayed decisions about investing in alternative treatment facilities until the standards to which waste must be treated to gain access to a landfill site are finalised. This is why we have argued that the Commission should allow sufficient time for Member States to implement the criteria in order to ensure that the necessary infrastructure is in place.


  40.  Considerable guidance on the interpretation of the Directive and its requirements has been provided by the Government in the two consultation papers issued on the Directive. In addition, the Environment Agency has produced a whole suite of guidance covering technical issues such as the Directive's engineering requirements and regulatory guidance covering processes such as site classification and submission of site conditioning plans. Further guidance from Government and the Environment Agency is planned.

Industry Costs

  41.  The Directive will result in costs to landfill site operators to bring their sites up to the required standards but also to waste producers who will have to pay for pre-treatment of their waste before landfilling. It is also likely that capacity for landfilling of hazardous waste will decline and will therefore drive up prices for producers wishing to landfill such waste.

  42.  The Directive brings forward a number of requirements that will add between £2.20 and £40.40 per tonne to the mean cost of waste disposal with costs ranging from £0 to £120 per tonne for specific waste streams. These costs will largely be passed back to the waste producers, reflecting the polluter pays principle, and will provide a further incentive to waste producers to reuse, recycle, recover or otherwise minimise their waste production.

Changes to the Hazardous Waste List

  43.  Around 200 additional wastes are now classified as hazardous under the new European Waste Catalogue. Many of the newly hazardous wastes are everyday items, such as end-of-life vehicles, PC and TV monitors and fluorescent light tubes.

  The Government will work with local authorities, waste producers and the waste industry to ensure that there is continued availability of waste management options for newly hazardous wastes. There will be a number of issues to be overcome. There will be decreased availability of landfill for these wastes as they will only be able to be disposed of at hazardous waste sites. Furthermore, many civic amenity sites and other waste management facilities are not licensed to take hazardous wastes.

  44.  However, the re-classification of many wastes is synergistic with other legislative changes, for example the ELV Directive and the WEEE Directive. It will encourage the separation out of hazardous components and, consequently, their proper management.


  The UK is being referred to the European Court of Justice as a result of the incomplete implementation of the Hazardous Waste Directive achieved by the Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994 and the Special Waste Regulations 1996. Most of the issues raised in this case are fairly minor and are being addressed through the review of the Special Waste Regulations.

  45.  However, two of the issues raised are rather more significant. First, because agricultural waste is not controlled waste, it falls outside the definition of special waste. This point will be dealt with in the forthcoming consultation on the extension of waste management controls to agriculture.

  46.  A second, more complex, point relates to the UK's use of exemptions that allow certain hazardous waste management activities to be carried out without a permit that complies with the relevant provisions of the Waste Framework Directive (a Waste Management Licence). The Hazardous Waste Directive requires any exemption that applies to hazardous waste to be notified to the Commission and agreed by other Member States.

  A number of hazardous waste licensing exemptions allowed by the Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994 (as amended) appear not to have been properly notified. These include exemptions that currently apply to storage of oils and solvents as well as goods that have been returned to retailers. It is possible that some of these will not be agreed by other Member States as they do not, and cannot readily, meet the general rules for hazardous waste exemptions set out in the Hazardous Waste Directive.

  47.  This problem is exacerbated by the new Hazardous Waste List, which extends the definition of hazardous waste and therefore means that more of the existing exemptions need to be notified.

  48.  The Government will consult on a set of revised exemptions once workable general rules have been established, in co-operation with the Environment Agency. This is likely to happen later in 2002. However, it is likely that some existing exemptions may need to be removed. If this is the case, the Government will give careful consideration to a light touch permitting regime to operate in their stead.


Waste Incineration Directive

  49.  Previous waste incineration directives only applied to municipal and hazardous waste. The new Waste Incineration Directive ("WID")—Directive 2000/76/EC—updates the requirements of the 1989 municipal waste incineration directives (89/429/EEC and 89/369/EEC) and, by merging them into the 1994 Hazardous Waste Incineration Directive (94/67/EC), consolidates incineration controls into a single piece of European legislation.

  50.  It covers virtually all waste incineration and co-incineration plant (such as cement kilns burning waste solvents) going beyond those plant previously covered by the incineration directives. Additionally, it also replaces Article 8(1) and the Annex to the Waste Oil Directive (75/439/EEC) thus extending the scope of incineration controls to cover the burning of waste oils. WID will apply to a total of up to 2,600 installations. Table 1 lists the main incineration and co-incineration processes and the estimated number of installations of each type.

Table 1


Process GroupSector
WML/registered exemptions

Waste incineration
Municipal waste incinerators
Clinical waste incinerators
Sewage sludge incinerators
General waste incinerators
Hazardous waste incinerators
Animal remains incinerators

Note 1
Waste oil combustion
Waste oil burners

Note 2
Roadstone coating plant

Note 5
Waste derived fuel burners
Wood burning

Note 3
Paper burning
No data
Biomass combustion

Note 4
Cement/lime kiln burning waste
Power stations burning waste
Carbon regeneration
Other Processes
Metal decontamination
Metal recovery

Note 5
Waste gasification

  Note 1  There is an exemption in the Directive for animal carcasses regulated under the Animal By-products Regulation which is still under negotiation.

  Note 2  It is estimated that 90 per cent of these processes are garages which burn approximately 2 tonnes per annum of waste mineral oil.

  Note 3  There are estimated to be 3,350 wood burning processes in the furniture manufacturing sector, the majority are thought to burn untreated wood and are exempted from WID control by another exclusion.

  Note 4  Plant burning only straw will be exempted from WID under Article 2(a)(i).

  Note 5  UK plants (rather than just those in England and Wales).

  51.  WID sets stringent requirements that will apply to all new incinerator installations from 28 December 2002 and to all existing installations from 28 December 2005. It specifies air emission and sets requirements concerning normal and abnormal operating conditions, water discharges from cleaning exhaust gases, ash recycling, plant control and monitoring and public access to information. The Directive also requires that all incinerators and co-incinerators will require continuous monitors for certain pollutants.

  52.  The Government will shortly be publishing a consultation paper on draft Regulations and Directions, which would transpose WID in England and Wales by the end of December 2002. The Regulations will be based upon the Pollution Prevention and Control (England and Wales) Regulations 2000.

Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC)

  53.  Apart from hazardous waste incinerators and larger landfill sites, most other facilities that deal with more than 10 tonnes of hazardous waste a day will also need to be brought under the PPC system in 2005.


  54.  One of the main goals of the End of Life Vehicles Directive (ELV) is to reduce and control the amount of hazardous materials that are released from vehicles. This will be achieved by introducing preventative measures to be applied to vehicles from when they are made; and by facilitating recovery and recycling of vehicle parts to avoid the disposal of hazardous waste.

Preventative Measures

  55.  The Directive (article 4) requires vehicle manufacturers, together with material and equipment manufacturers, to limit the use of hazardous substances in vehicles as far as possible, so as to prevent their release into the environment; to make recycling easier and to avoid the need to dispose of hazardous parts. In particular, Member States are to ensure that any material and components of vehicles put on the market after 1 July 2003 do not contain lead, mercury, cadmium or hexavalent chromium, except for a few limited exempted cases such as lead in batteries where the use is unavoidable. Such exemptions are listed in Annex II to the Directive.

  56.  The Directive also requires that the design and production of new vehicles should fully take account of the need to dismantle the vehicle and to reuse and recycle its components. In particular, vehicle components containing hazardous substances and which are listed in Annex II of the Directive must be labelled so as to make identification and subsequent removal easier. Producers are to provide dismantling information for each type of new vehicle placed on the market, which, in particular will provide the location of all hazardous substances that will need to be removed and segregated. The Commission is also preparing European Standards relating to the dismantlablity and recoverability of vehicles so that vehicles are re-useable and/or recyclable to a minimum of 85 per cent by weight per vehicle, and are re-useable and/or recoverable to a minimum of 96 per cent by weight per vehicle.

Treatment Operations involving Hazardous Waste

  57.  Any treatment facility wishing to take and treat end of life vehicles after the implementation of the Directive in the UK will have to obtain a permit from the Environment Agencies, and their site will be inspected at least once a year to verify among other things the type and quantities of hazardous waste to be treated.

  58.  When a vehicle arrives at a treatment facility it is to be stripped of its components that have been labelled to identify the fact that they contain hazardous substances in order to reduce any impact upon the Environment. These hazardous components and materials are then to be removed and segregated so that there is no chance that they will go through the shredder and contaminate the shredder residue.

  59.  Once components have been removed from a vehicle, Member States are to encourage the reuse of components that can be reused, and the recovery of components that cannot be reused.

Implementation of the Directive in the UK

  60.  The Government fully supports the Directive in particular because of the environmental benefits that it will bring to the UK. Although the Directive was to be transposed into UK law by 21 April 2002, transposition will be late, as it is in a number of other Member States, as the Government is keen to avoid rushing the implementation of as complex a Directive as this one. Consultation with Industry on the most appropriate form of implementation in the UK is continuing. DEFRA is to issue a consultation paper shortly on the draft regulations to implement Article 6 and Annex I of the Directive which relates to treatment facility standards and permits.


Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive

  The European Commission adopted a proposal on Waste of Electronic and Electrical Equipment Directive (WEEE) on 13 June 2000. Political agreement on a Common Position was reached at June 2001 Environment Council. The European Parliament's plenary vote following their second reading took place on 8-11 April. There is likely to be a conciliation period and the final texts are expected to emerge in late 2002. We will then have 18 months to transpose the Directive in national legislation.

  The WEEE Directive is a producer responsibility Directive, the key provisions which are that:

    (a)  Member States are to set up systems for the separate collection of WEEE, distributors (retailers) must take back WEEE when they sell a similar new item, either in store or through alternative arrangements.

    (b)  Producers are to set up systems for the treatment of WEEE (a set of treatment requirements is given). and producers are to provide for the recovery and reuse of separately collected WEEE (percentage recovery and re-use recycling targets are given).

  61.  The Directive applies to EEE falling under ten categories including all components, sub-assemblies and consumables, which are part of the product at the time of discarding. A list of products falling under each of these categories is given in the Annexes to the Directive. Military equipment is excluded. "Electrical and electronic equipment" or "EEE" is defined as equipment which is:

  62.  dependent on electric currents or electromagnetic fields in order to work properly; or

  63.  for the generation, transfer and measurement of such currents and fields falling under the categories set out in Annex 1A and designed for use with a voltage rating not exceeding 1000 Volt for alternating current and 1500 Volt for direct current.

  64.  The objectives of the WEEE Directive include prevention of WEEE, a reduction in the disposal of waste through the re-use, recycling and other forms of recovery of WEEE and the improved environmental performance of all operators involved in the lifecycle of electrical and electronic equipment, eg. producers, distributors (retailers), consumers and, in particular, operators directly involved in the treatment of WEEE.

  In order to reduce the hazardousness of WEEE the treatment requirements include:

  65.  Removal of all fluids and certain substances, preparations and components from any separately collected WEEE (eg lead, mercury). These must be disposed of or recovered in compliance with Article 4 of Directive 75/442/EC.

  66.  Member States may set up minimum quality standards for the treatment of collected WEEE.

  67.  Treatment is to be carried out by licensed operators and Member States shall ensure that treatment facilities store and treat WEEE in compliance with given technical requirements.

  68.  In addition, the collection provisions require that Member States may provide for specific arrangements for the return of WEEE if the equipment has been contaminated during use, and makes particular reference to radioactive and biological contaminants.

  69.  In its proposed amendments, the European Parliament has proposed a total ban on the disposal of WEEE in the household waste stream.

  70.  Producers must also provide treatment facilities with the information that they need in order to comply with the provisions of the Directive, as well as on the location of substances and preparations in EEE which are considered dangerous under Directive 67/548/EC or Directive 1999/45/EC. In its proposed amendments, the European Parliament has proposed that Member States should ensure that users are given the necessary information about the presence of hazardous substances in EEE.

Restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in EEE (ROHS) Directive

  71.  The ROHS Directive is also a producer responsibility Directive, the key provisions of which are:

  72.  To substitute lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, and certain flame retardants (PBB and PBDEs) in electrical and electronic equipment.

  To exempt certain applications where no substitute is available (a committee procedure for adding and removing exemptions and agreeing acceptable levels of substances in specific materials and components is proposed).

  73.  The ROHS Directive is being negotiated alongside the WEEE Directive. Its main objectives are:

  74.  To approximate the laws of the Member States on the restrictions of the use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment.

  75.  To contribute to the protection of human health and the environmentally sound recovery and disposal of waste electrical and electronic equipment.

  76.  The Directive is expected to come into effect 1 January 2007 (although the European Parliament has voted in favour of moving this forward to 1 January 2006).


  77.  The Waste Oil Directive contains a series of requirements designed to ensure the safe management of waste lubricating oils. Member States must give priority to the regeneration of waste oil, where regeneration is defined as recycling to produce a usable lubricant. No regeneration currently takes place in the UK, the last facility having closed down in 2000.

  78.  The European Commission has issued a Reasoned Opinion in relation to what it sees as the UK's failure to promote regeneration. This is one of nine parallel infraction cases brought against Member States following an ECJ ruling against Germany. The Government is considering a range of measures to promote waste oil regeneration. It was announced in Budget 2002 that Customs and Excise would be consulting on the possibility of applying excise duty to waste oil burned as a fuel (it is currently free from duty). This would send out a signal in favour of regeneration and help to bridge the significant economic gap between combustion and regeneration.

  79.  Where waste oil is burned as a fuel, the Directive specifies emission limits that must be applied. These emission limits will be superseded by those in the Waste Incineration Directive, when it comes into force in December 2002 for new plants and 2005 for existing plants.


  80.  The proposed new batteries directive may seek:

  81.  To extend the scope of the present Directive to all battery types rather than just those containing mercury, lead and cadmium.

  82.  Restrictions on the sale of nickel cadmium batteries (nicads).

  83.  Collection and recycling targets of between 50-75 per cent for all batteries.

  84.  The UK is keen to await the results of a Belgian risk assessment into cadmium and targeted risk assessment on nickel cadmium batteries before considering a possible NiCd ban. A ban could have serious implications for our nickel refiners and power tool industry.

  85.  The UK supports demanding but achievable collection targets for consumer batteries. Recycling levels for industrial and automotive batteries already exceed 75 per cent.


  86.  Hazardous Waste Minimisation.

Action on chemicals

  87.  Phase-out of chemicals will have longer-term benefits in terms of hazardous waste management, although it may cause increases in particular wastes in the shorter-term, eg POPs from developing countries.

  The European Commission's White Paper for a future chemicals policy was published in February 2001 and proposed a new system for the assessment and management of risks from chemicals placed on the market. The proposed system known as REACH, includes a new element of authorisation for the most hazardous chemicals. It is likely that the these will include carcinogenic, mutagenic and reproductive toxins (CMR) and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and possibly also persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) substances and very persistent and very bioaccumulative (vPvB) substances however there is some disagreement between the European Council and Parliament about the latter substances. The UK supports their inclusion.

  In the longer term the authorisation system may include known endocrine disrupters when validated test methods are available and sensitisers. Again UK supports their inclusion. The Commission has been working with stakeholders on the major issues and proposals for the new European legislation on chemicals are expected later this year.

  88.  The authorisation of the most hazardous chemicals should result (eventually) in these no longer being used or present in products and thus reduction in their presence in industrial and household waste. The new legislation is intended to cover imports into the EU-however it is not yet clear how products will be addressed.

  89.  The Stockholm Convention on POPs was adopted in May 2001 and includes specific requirements for POPs waste. Implementation is likely to lead to increases in the levels of POPs wastes identified by developing countries. This may result in increased imports to countries with facilities for disposal. Ideally efforts should be aimed at developing local capabilities for disposal. However, incinerators are seen by many African Governments as posing a range of problems and to date no African country has been willing to host a regional hazardous waste treatment facility. The POPs convention should create new opportunities for exploring new methods of disposing of hazardous waste. A UNIDO/UNDP GEF pilot project is planned to take this work forward.

Integrated product policy

  90.  One of the most effective means of reducing hazardous waste is to minimise the use of hazardous materials in products. Integrated product policy (IPP) approaches can help to achieve this by ensuring that the most significant product impacts are identified and tackled effectively, using the most appropriate instruments or tools wherever these need to be applied in the life cycle. Clever design and innovation at the start of a product's life cycle helps to ensure that hazardous materials are reduced to a minimum.

  91.  The Government is contributing to the development of a policy framework on IPP at European level, and a European Commission White Paper on IPP is expected to be published shortly. In the UK, the Advisory Committee on Consumer Products and the Environment (ACCPE) has been set up to advise on the development of IPP approaches in this country and their practical implementation to reduce the sustainable development impacts of consumer products. The Government is currently considering the recommendations in ACCPE's second report, "Action for Greener Goods" published on 2 May.


  92.  In the longer term, these will reduce hazardous materials in particular waste streams.

IPPC as a means of controlling waste production

  93.  The Directive concerning integrated pollution prevention and control (96/61/EC)—the "IPPC Directive"—requires Member States to take the necessary measures to ensure that industrial installations covered by the Directive "are operated in such a way that waste production is avoided in accordance with Council Directive 75/442/EEC of 15 July 1975 on waste; [and] where waste is produced, it is recovered or, where that is technically and economically impossible, it is disposed of while avoiding or reducing any impact on the environment". This requirement is embodied in the permitting system for these installations established by the Pollution Prevention and Control (England and Wales) Regulations 2000. The regulator (the Environment Agency or, for a minority of smaller installations, a Local Authority) is required to determine permit applications against this and the other requirements of the IPPC Directive and to set permit conditions accordingly.


  94.  Government is keen to encourage better hazardous waste management by industry through cleaner technology. Envirowise (and its predecessor, the Environmental Technology Best Practice Programme) has played an important role in promoting initiatives that can help to reduce hazardous waste production. Its publications have included information on reducing the use of solvents and metal working fluids, both of which would result in the generation of hazardous waste.


  95.  The Government strongly supports re-use and recycling of hazardous waste where this is appropriate. Lubricating oil and most organic solvents are good examples of hazardous wastes that should be recovered for re-use wherever possible.

  96.  However, re-use and recycling might not be appropriate for some particularly hazardous wastes. Obvious examples are chemicals that have been banned, such as certain pesticides, PCBs and asbestos, which should be destroyed or treated to remove their hazardous properties.


  97.  Hazardous wastes are widely used as fuel in industrial processes. Secondary liquid fuels, derived from selected waste solvents and blended to a tight specification, are burned at a number of cement and lime processes in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. The Government considers that energy recovery is an important part of its strategy for managing hazardous wastes provided that:

  98.  Stringent environmental controls are met.

  99.  It is not technically and economically feasible to recycle these wastes.

  100.  The application of the Hazardous Waste Incineration Directive (and subsequently the Waste Incineration Directive) should ensure that energy recovery from hazardous waste only takes place where the Best Available Techniques are used to minimise harmful emissions.

  101.  Waste lubricating oils are burned as fuel, particularly by operators of coal-fired power stations and roadstone coating plants. This activity is exempt from the provisions of the Hazardous Waste Incineration Directive and it is possible that the use of waste oil as a fuel will be restricted once the Waste Incineration Directive comes into force.

  102.  In addition, as outlined above, the Government is committed to promoting the regeneration of waste oil, in line with the requirements of the Waste Oil Directive.

  103.  It is therefore important that the Government promotes alternative means of managing waste oil.


High temperature incineration

  104.  The Government is committed to the principles of self-sufficiency and proximity in the disposal of wastes. It recognises the importance of having available high temperature waste incinerators, suitable for the disposal of some of the most hazardous wastes, such as PCBs and halons. All such facilities need to meet the standards contained in the Hazardous Waste Incineration Directive (which will be replaced by the Waste Incineration Directive).

  105.  The Government also recognises that it is important for the UK to have the capability to play a full part in the resolution of global environmental problems, such as the destruction of stockpiles of hazardous chemicals in developing countries. For this reason, the UK high temperature incineration industry has a particular strategic importance.


  106.  The Government recognises that well operated and regulated landfill has an important role to play both now and in the future. However, it is committed to reducing the UK's reliance on landfill, which makes little practical use of waste and is a missed opportunity to recover value from waste, including hazardous waste. The Government believes that landfilling of waste sits at the bottom of the waste hierarchy and in its Waste Strategy has set out a range of policies to promote the reduction, re-use, recycling and recovery of waste in order to divert it from landfill.


  107.  The Best Practicable Environmental Option (BPEO) is a tool to assist waste producers in the determining the appropriate methods for managing their wastes. Waste Strategy 2000 indicated that the Environment Agency and the former DETR would be developing proposals on how to take BPEO forward, not least for key hazardous waste streams. The Environment Agency has developed WIZARD, although this was primarily designed to help local authorities to assess the environmental effects of proposed waste management strategies for dealing with municipal solid waste.

  108.  For many hazardous wastes the range of treatment options that will achieve the desired outcome (a reduction in quantity, value recovery, reduction or elimination of a hazard, or meeting landfill acceptance criteria) is in fact very limited. Some will require specific chemical treatment (to precipitate dissolved metals or neutralise acids and alkalis), or can only be incinerated (recalcitrant organics) or require specialised recovery techniques (solvents and oils).

  109.  With the introduction of the landfill and incineration directives the decisions on the management of industrial hazardous wastes will often focus on issues such as the potential for change to cleaner technology or to treat in house using custom designed processes rather than seeking out waste contractors with appropriate treatment facilities.

  110.  Nevertheless, there is a clear role for detailed consideration of BPEO for particularly difficult waste streams. Waste oils are a good example of a situation where close examination of a range of options, a number of which may need to run in parallel, will be vital if we are to meet the twin challenges of the Waste Incineration Directive and the Waste Oil Directive.


  111.  The changes to the Hazardous Waste List need to be implemented into national law. In view of this and other recent changes in the field of hazardous waste management, the then Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions commissioned a review of the Special Waste Regulations from the consultants Enviros Aspinwall. This involved extensive consultation with a wide range of people with an interest in hazardous waste, including waste producers, waste managers, regulators and non-governmental organisations. The final report, published in June 2000, recommended a number of changes to the regulations.

  112.  The Government has taken forward recommendations made by Enviros Aspinwall and issued a consultation paper setting out preliminary proposals for new hazardous waste regulations in March 2001.

  113.  There were over 100 responses to this consultation, most of which were broadly in favour of the changes proposed. Having considered the comments made, the Government has prepared draft legislation which it intends to issue with a second consultation paper in June. Following this second consultation, the new regulations are expected to be laid before Parliament in the Autumn, with a view to their implementation early in 2003 to allow time for hazardous waste producers and waste management companies to accommodate the changes.

  114.  Generally, the aim of the review is to reduce the administrative burden imposed by the Regulations, while improving environmental protection. More specifically, the proposals are intended to:

  115.  Resolve inconsistencies between the Hazardous Waste Directive/List and the Special Waste Regulations, whilst maintaining the possibility of exceptionally adopting a different approach domestically, in the interests of environmental protection;

  116.  Encourage reductions in the amount of hazardous waste produced to limit disposal problems due to implementation of the Landfill Directive, consistent with the Waste Strategy;

  117.  Continue to provide an audit trail for hazardous waste and improve its management by both waste producers and the waste management industry;

  118.  Reduce the administrative burden on the waste industry and the Environment Agency by removing the requirement to pre-notify movements of waste and by replacing the need for the Environment Agency to process individual consignment notes with a new requirement for quarterly summary returns; and

  119.  Shift the burden of responsibility onto the producer, rather than the recycler or disposer of the waste and establish a requirement for all producers of hazardous waste to register with the Environment Agency.


  120.  Household hazardous waste is currently excluded from the scope of the Hazardous Waste Directive, and thus the Special Waste Regulations (with, in the case of the SWR, the exception of asbestos waste). The European Commission had intended to make a proposal for a Household Hazardous Waste Directive, but this has never emerged.

  121.  Nevertheless, under the new Hazardous Waste List, various household or municipal wastes may be classified as hazardous if they are separately collected. As a consequence, where hazardous wastes are separated out from the bulk of municipal waste, they must be treated as hazardous. This could happen as a result of separate collection or sorting at, for example, civic amenity sites.

  122.  The Government is clearly anxious not to discourage either separate collection of household hazardous waste or the proper management of local authority waste facilities. To this end, Government will work closely with local authorities to ensure that they are fully involved in the implementation of the new hazardous waste list.

  123.  We shall also work with local authorities and other stakeholders to explore innovative ways of promoting the safe management of household hazardous wastes. In order to take this debate forward, it will consider whether additional information should be collected through the next municipal waste survey.


  124.  Any successful policy to improve the management of waste must be based on sound evidence and data. Availability of robust data has been a long-standing problem in the waste sector and Government, the Environment Agency and the waste industry have taken steps to address this.

  125.  As in other areas, good quality data is also necessary to measure performance, for example against the hazardous waste sustainable development indicator, or any indicators developed under the European Commission's Sixth Action Plan.

  126.  Better data is available for hazardous waste than for many other wastes as a result of the system of consignment notes that is required by under the Special Waste Regulations. These provide information on the type, quantity and origin and destination of hazardous wastes. A register of special waste moved from any site must be kept for three years. The system is monitored by the Environment Agency and data fed into its Special Waste Tracking System.

  127.  Nevertheless, more needs to be done. Significant improvements in the reliability of data on hazardous waste should result from the proposed changes to the Special Waste Regulations, particularly producer registration.


  128.  While Government can set a policy framework for waste management, the market-led nature of the industry in the UK means that it cannot exercise direct control. Real progress will only be made with hazardous waste management if all stakeholders work together and communicate effectively.

  129.  Government clearly has a major facilitative role to play-as it did in bringing together the parties dealing with problems surrounding fridge disposal. However, it is also important that Government is actively engaged in this process. In particular, it needs to work closely with:

  130.   The Environment Agency—the input of the Environment Agency is vital to the success of virtually all of the measures discussed in this Memorandum. Good practice-such as the early involvement of the Agency in the design of the review of the Special Waste Regulations-needs to built upon.

  131.   Local authorities—local authorities will be increasingly involved in the management of hazardous waste as the new hazardous waste list comes into effect and many everyday wastes are classified as hazardous. It is essential that local authorities are consulted and involved from any early stage and provided with guidance and other necessary resources.

  132.   The waste industry—virtually all investment in waste management infrastructure will originate from the private sector. Government needs to keep industry informed, and to work with industry to gather information, in order that necessary investment decisions can be taken with confidence.


  133.  The next five years will see radical changes in the way that hazardous wastes are managed in the UK. Many more wastes will be classified as hazardous, including a number that arise from almost every home and commercial building. The long-standing practice of co-disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous wastes in the same landfill site will cease. A number of hazardous wastes will be banned from landfill altogether. In addition, a whole range of additional measures, such as the Directives on ELVs and WEEE will impinge on the way that particular types of hazardous wastes are managed.

  134.  Against this background, the Government will take steps to ensure that these measures are implemented proportionately, in an integrated way and so as to provide a high level of environmental protection in an efficient manner.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 26 July 2002