Environment Agency issues statement on storage limits

Written by: Maddie Ballard | Published:
The document allows companies to store additional waste of a type listed in their permit, without needing to apply for a permit variation

The Environment Agency (EA) has published a COVID-19 regulatory position statement (RPS), allowing companies to “temporarily store more waste” than usual if removal is affected by coronavirus restrictions.

The document, which was published on 6 April, allows companies to store additional waste of any type listed in their existing permit, without needing to apply for a permit variation.

Companies must demonstrate that they have “taken all reasonable steps to company with [their] permit”.

These steps include contingency planning to minimise disruption during the coronavirus outbreak, response planning to reduce the impact of not being able to comply with a permit, and minimising how far waste storage limits are exceeded.

Companies must also comply with several other conditions.

Among these, they must stop accepting waste at their sites if there is a risk to human health or the environment, and ensure that all waste exceeding the limit in their permit is removed from site within three months unless other agreements are made in writing.

Companies must also keep records of the additional waste they store and how they are managing it.

Before using the COVID-19 RPS, companies must email the EA with ‘Waste COVID-19 RPS C2’ in the subject line.

The RPS will be withdrawn on 30 September 2020, unless the EA extends it.

After this date, companies must comply with their existing permits.

The statement has been welcomed by major industry bodies, including the Environmental Services Agency (ESA).

Jacob Hayler, executive director of the ESA, said: “The regulatory position statement released [on 6 April] is important because it relieves some of the pressure facing waste facility operators, who may accumulate more material than usual if outlets such as materials recycling facilities, energy from waste plants, or export operations go offline, or have reduced capacity, due to staff shortages.

“These measures also help to ensure that recyclable and waste material will be put to its intended use in the event of onward supply chain disruption, rather than being sent to the nearest available disposal facility.”

However, Hayler also touched on the potential for administrative snags and fraud.

“There are still some issues facing operators, however, such as the need to obtain landlord approval for increased storage, which may introduce additional hurdles and cause delay,” he said.

“This regulatory position is clearly not a licence to relax standards and there are many conditions which must be met in order to continue to comply with the regulations.

“It is also not an invitation for criminal operators to stockpile material and the EA, supported by legitimate operators, must remain vigilant to this and not relax enforcement.”

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