Memorandum submitted by Cleanaway Limited
Cleanaway is one of the largest waste management
companies in the UK and is involved in the management of all categories
of industrial, commercial, clinical and municipal waste, with
the exception of radioactive waste. The company has a technical
waste business dedicated to the management of hazardous waste,
which is the largest and most profitable hazardous waste business
in the UK today, with access to the widest range of facilities
for recovering, recycling and disposal. We own and operate a number
of hazardous waste facilities including solvent recovery plant,
co-disposal landfill sites, a specialist PCB treatment facility,
physico-chemical treatment facilities, bio-treatment plant and
the UK's largest high-temperature incinerator representing two-thirds70,000
tonnes of UK capacity.
Cleanaway welcomes the establishment of this
inquiry and is pleased that the Committee has recognised that
policymaking should take proper account of the question of hazardous
waste management. Cleanaway had previously asked the Committee
to examine this area and is pleased that the Committee has recognised
the concerns of industry.
The reason that Cleanaway has been asking for
an inquiry and why it is so timely, is that the hazardous waste
management sector in the UK is in turmoil. For the past decade,
governments of both persuasions have turned a blind eye to the
needs of hazardous waste management. Now, however, a number of
factors are combining to raise some serious questions for future
UK policy. These include:
What future is there for high-temperature
incineration in the UK, and if it disappears, what will be the
consequences for UK manufacturing industry?
What effect will the banning of co-disposal
have on landfilling hazardous waste?
Will different treatment routes continue
to be regulated to different environmental standards and on different
Whilst Cleanaway has a large business based
on all aspects of hazardous waste management, this paper looks
in most detail at the future of high temperature incineration(HTI),
because this has traditionally been the major disposal route for
the most toxic and reactive wastes. Some of these wastes, by-products
of vital chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing processes,
are extremely dangerous substances, for which there is no alternative
to disposal by HTI. We see HTI as being critical to the UK remaining
self-sufficient in waste management.
The UK's HTI industry has been in steady decline
for nearly a decade. As recently as 1999, there were four merchant
(ie commercial, as opposed to in-house) HTI plants in the UK,
operated by three companies, which had a combined capacity of
more than 165,000 tonnes. Today, there are just two facilities
remaining with a total capacity of 105,000 tonnes and there is
a question mark over the medium to long-term viability of the
sector. Indeed, there is already a strong possibility that the
UK may be without HTI capacity for certain periods, since the
two remaining plants are quite likely at some point to be on maintenance
shutdown at the same time. Should either of the plants close permanently,
or be mothballed, there would be a monopoly supplier, which is
unlikely to be satisfactory to UK industry. It is highly unlikely
that any operator would ever seek, or be able to obtain, planning
permission for a new high-temperature incinerator due to high
capital costs in a difficult market.
Although HTI in the UK is a relatively small
business, with turnover of less than £50 million, the two
remaining facilities are key national assets supporting the chemical
and pharmaceutical industries. The UK chemical industry is the
largest positive contributor to the UK balance of payments in
the manufacturing sector-annual sales are £45 billion, supporting
a £5 billion positive trade surplus. It represents over 10
per cent of total UK manufacturing. Proper disposal of waste residues
produced by this sector is of vital importance if the sector is
to thrive and prosper in the UK.
Without an adequate network of facilities to
treat hazardous waste, and especially the most toxic wastes, the
UK will find itself in breach of EU and international legislation.
EU Member States are required to become self-sufficient in waste
disposal operations and should not export their waste for disposal
elsewhere. The UK has consistently claimed, quite properly, that
we are self-sufficient in waste management, but this position
is now seriously threatened. Having had the embarrassment of seeing
thousands of refrigerators leaving the UK for destruction in other
EU countries, it cannot be desirable to envisage much more hazardous
wastes leaving our shores to be managed by other countries.
Cleanaway is not suggesting that the hazardous
waste management industry be given any sort of commercial favouritism.
We also recognise that hazardous waste is, by definition, potentially
harmful to the environment and we support the "polluter pays"
principle. However, what Government needs to recognise is that
hazardous waste management is a highly specialised market. Most
hazardous waste treatment plants are a national resource; they
are needed by our industries to enable the UK to reduce harmful
emissions and to comply with our international obligations.
The hazardous waste management sector is also
extremely vulnerable to regulatory interventionor the lack
of it. Unfortunately, perhaps, market forces alone would be unlikely
to deliver sustainable solutions. What has happened over the past
decade, however, is that the regulatory system and the lack of
a national hazardous waste strategy has allowed waste to be directed
towards cheap "fuel blending" options. Whilst benefiting
some industry sectors through reduced costs, this has had an adverse
environmental impact and contributed to the decline of HTI as
a viable commercial operation. In effect, HTI has had the worst
of all worlds since the early 1990stough market conditions,
distorted by lopsided regulation favouring one disposal route
rather than another. As a result, capacity has been rationalised
to the point where the future existence of the sector is in doubt.
Landfill Directive. This will have a
significant impact on the disposal of hazardous waste in the UK,
particularly those wastes that are currently being disposed of
via co-disposal landfill. From July 2002, over 250,000 tonnes
of liquid hazardous waste and wastes with certain properties will
be banned from all landfill sites. From 2004, at the latest, all
hazardous waste must be treated prior to being landfilled in a
dedicated hazardous landfill site.
There is as yet no clear indication how many
companies will elect to operate hazardous waste landfills after
2004. There will certainly be a significant reduction in the availability
of landfill for hazardous waste; this in turn will mean that there
will be a shortfall in capacity for the treatment and disposal
of materials from landfill, leaving the chemical and pharmaceutical
sectors extremely vulnerable.
It may be assumed that wastes that are to be
banned from landfill could be incinerated (ie in HTI plant), but
this is not necessarily the case. Most liquid wastes that are
currently landfilled are aqueous (mainly water) based and cannot
easily be incinerated without the use of support fuel. In the
current legislative climate, in which most high calorific value
hazardous waste is consigned to cement kilns, this would mean
HTI plant purchasing fossil fuel in order to support combustion.
Purchasing fuel would, in turn, increase costs making incineration
prohibitively expensive for most waste producers.
The waste management industry has been criticised
by DEFRA officials for allegedly failing to plan new facilities
in time for the implementation of the Directive. However, private
companies cannot invest large sums of money without clarity of
legislation and a clear indication of market size. At the date
of writing, there are still a number of fundamental issues arising
from the Landfill Directive which have not been resolved. We do
not know what criteria waste will have to meet to be allowed into
landfill, we do not know what level of treatment will be required
and we do not even know the exact dates when parts of the Directive
will come into effect. Government cannot leave the future of hazardous
waste management to be determined by market forces and then bemoan
the fact that businesses are cautious of investing before knowing
whether there is a commercial case for it. Cleanaway's own experience
has been that we were encouraged by government to build an HTI
plant in the late 1980s, only for regulatory action to decimate
the market in the early 1990s, some caution on our part in the
early 2000s may be understandable.
Waste Shipment Regulations. These Regulations
have a direct effect on the HTI sector. The Regulations and the
associated UK Plan mean that co-incinerators (cement kilns) can
import high calorific wastes (CV) for "use as a fuel"
but the HTI plants cannot. The inability to import high CV waste,
coupled with the loss of UK business, has severely affected the
mix of wastes available for incineration. In order to reach the
high temperatures required by the Directive, HTI facilities need
high CV wastes to prevent the facility having to purchase fossil
fuel to maintain temperatures.
Meanwhile, companies shipping waste out of the
UK in the form of ODS in refrigerators are benefiting from a "fast
track" approach that allows export to any EU Member State
regardless of the licensing standards in that State.
Diversion of Hazardous Waste to Cement Kilns.
Cleanaway gave evidence to the then Environment Select Committee
in 1994-95 (The Burning of Secondary Liquid Fuel in Cement
Kilns) and again in 1996-97 (The Environmental Impact of
In the 1996-7 inquiry, the HTI industry set
out very clearly that the industry was under threat and warned
of plant closures. Oakdene Hollins, independent consultants, told
the Committee that if the use of SLF continued and increased,
one of the incinerator companies would go out of business.
The Committee concluded that:
The high temperature incinerators provide
an important environmental service in disposing of hazardous wastes
which cannot be safely disposed of by any other route. We consider
it important to safeguard the future of this industry and recommend
that the Government, in consultation with its European partners
and industry, draw up a list of:
those wastes of lower calorific value,
combustion of which in cement kilns is recognised as "disposal"
rather than "recovery" according to criteria to be laid
down by the Government in accordance with the United Kingdom Management
Plan for Exports and Imports of Waste, and
those particularly hazardous or difficult
wastes for which the Best Practicable Environmental Option is
disposal in a high temperature incinerator.
The Agency should ensure that such wastes
are excluded from SLF.
We are very disappointed to report to the Committee
that this important recommendation, despite frequent attempts
to draw it to Ministers' and officials' attention, has not been
acted upon. We believe that the Government and the Agency failed
to take the very real concerns of the industry seriously. Since
this Report two HTI plants have closed.
IPPC Directive. This directive and associated
regulations affects industry and waste managers. IPPC and strategy
issues are driving producers to send waste for blending into a
fuel because they can claim "recovery" of the waste.
If the same waste is sent for HTI the producer cannot claim recovery
and so receives a lower environmental compliance score. The increased
demand for high calorific value wastes has caused a further lowering
of the prices in the marketplace making HTI less economic.
Incineration Directives. The impact of
these directives mainly affects the HTI sector and companies with
in-house incineration facilities. The requirements of the directives
mean that all dedicated HTI facilities have to meet stringent
operational and emission conditions and some in-house incinerators
have been forced to close.
The Regulatory and Environmental Impact Assessment
(REIA) of the implementation of the Proposed Waste Incineration
Directive in the UK was conducted on behalf of the Government
The study focused on the additional costs and benefits of implementing
the proposed directive. The benefits of implementing the Directive
were listed and showed significant reductions in UK emissions;
the saving of 51 early deaths and 97 hospital admissions; reductions
in chronic health effects, which could be significant; reductions
in adverse health effects directly due to NOx; and reductions
in health effects due to dioxins and certain heavy metals (including
cadmium and mercury). The report considered whether the requirements
of the Directive could be regarded as reasonable or not for each
sector. They concluded that the waste incineration sector should
be made to comply, whereas for the cement kilns they could not
decide whether it would be reasonable to ask them to invest in
cleaner technology stating, "High compliance costs would
be expected to meet the NOx emission limit value. This may affect
cement companies' future waste burning plans."
The HTI industry is complying fully with the
Hazardous Waste Incineration Directive and is investing in equipment
to ensure full compliance with the Waste Incineration Directive.
It cannot, however, compete with an industry that is not required
to meet the same standards.
Planning Matters. The current planning
system in the UK is unlikely to enable industry to deliver new
hazardous waste treatment facilities within the required timescales.
Obtaining planning permission for any waste facility is extremely
time consuming and costly. Facilities for hazardous waste are,
invariably, more difficult and are not welcomed by most planning
Waste Electrical and Electronic Waste Directive
(WEEE). This legislation will present a major new challenge
to the waste management industry, Local Authorities and regulators
alike. Considerable new infrastructure investment will be required
but, as with the Landfill Directive, industry cannot be expected
to make major investment unless there is clarity from the legislature
as to the UK's interpretation of the Directive when it is agreed.
Furthermore, as TVs, computer monitors and fluorescent lighting
are to be classified as "hazardous" under the revision
of the Special Waste Regulations there will be a significant increase
in the number of sites producing hazardous waste.
Exemptions from hazardous waste regulation.
The continued exemption for agricultural and household waste
from classification as hazardous increases the ability of these
sectors to pollute and reduces the opportunities for recycling.
The Waste Strategy 2000 recycling targets for municipal waste
may not be met if the hazardous components of the waste are not
Why we need a Hazardous Waste Strategy
Waste Strategy 2000 sets out clear targets
and concentrates principally on the management of municipal waste.
The UK needs a similar, specific Hazardous Waste Strategy to set
out how we intend to manage these difficult wastes in the future.
Without such a strategy the UK may find itself without adequate
treatment capacity for the safe management of the most difficult
wastes. The strategy should contain:
Good, clear data from the Environment
Agency to enable industry to plan and build plant. Currently the
only hazardous waste data available from the Agency is for 1998-9.
Later figures are available but the Agency refuses to publish
Recognition that DEFRA needs to make
early decisions about how it intends to implement EU legislation.
Implementation of the Landfill Directive is late, revision of
the Special Waste Regulations is late and implementation of the
European Waste Catalogue is unclear.
Clarity of decision and enforcement
is vital to ensure that if businesses invest in plant and equipment
waste will not be allowed to be moved to less environmentally
DEFRA's view on which wastes are
suitable for blending down for "use as a fuel" and how
they can stop the current practice of "solution by dilution".
Many EU Member States direct specific wastes to certain facilities
to ensure proper management of the most hazardous wastes.
To be effective the strategy must link across
all Government departments and be supported by industry. Without
a robust strategy, the UK will not be able to treat all the hazardous
waste produced and will cease to be self sufficient in waste management.
The strategy must cover all potentially hazardous
materials including clinical waste. To date clinical waste appears
to be under-regulated. Hazardous clinical waste is still being
disposed of in facilities which do not meet the standards set
in the Hazardous Waste Incineration Directive. In some areas of
the country, the management of clinical waste falls short of acceptable
UK STRATEGY FOR
From Cleanaway's perspective, as the largest
operator in the hazardous waste management sector in the UK, any
strategy should include the following elements:
The establishment of a clear and
realistic timetable for the implementation of all new legislation
affecting the management of hazardous waste, this should be established
in consultation with industry (waste producers and managers)
Implementation of the 1997 Select
Committee recommendation to identify certain types of waste as
suitable for consignment either to HTI or to co-incineration (cement
Award of "Recovery" status
to high CV waste consigned to HTI (as already occurs in the case
of co-incineration), removing the perverse incentive for waste
producers to choose a more environmentally damaging option for
Equal regulatory treatment of HTI
and co-incineration in respect of the Hazardous Waste Incineration
Directive, both on fair competition and environmental grounds
A statement as to whether the anomalies
in the exemptions for agriculture and household waste is sustainable
A clear statement of policy to the
effect that HTI is likely to be needed for the foreseeable future
as part of a diverse, sustainable, self-sufficient and environmentally
responsible hazardous waste management strategy for the UK; and
that in order to sustain such a strategy no disposal route will
be advantaged over another.
16 May 2002
1 Environment Committee Third Report, Summary and conclusions
pp 25. Back
DETR Regulatory and Environmental Impact Assessment of the proposed
Waste Incineration Directive-Final Report. Back
Executive Summary pages vii and x. Back