COVID-19 | EA “relieves pressure” facing operators over waste storage

The Environment Agency (EA) says that because of COVID-19 restrictions, it will allow waste facility operators to “temporarily store more waste” than their permit allows – a move the ESA says will relieve “some of the pressure facing waste facility operators”.

The EA has published a COVID-19 regulatory position statement (RPS) that allows waste facility operators to temporarily store more waste than their permit allows if they cannot remove waste from their site because of COVID-19 restrictions.

By following the conditions in the position statement, operators can exceed waste storage limits without applying for a permit variation, the EA says.

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) has welcomed the RPS, saying it takes a “pragmatic, flexible, approach” to the storage of waste materials in the event of onward supply chain disruption caused by the COVID 19 crisis.

Identified early-on as a critical area for the sector, the ESA said it asked the regulatory authorities to consider “short-term flexibility” around planning and permitting conditions to allow services to continue in the event of a reduced workforce, or inability to move recyclable or waste material to its normal destinations, caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Regulatory Position Statement released today is important because it relieves some of the pressure facing waste facility operators

This includes permit conditions regulated under the EA and local planning conditions set by local authorities.

The ESA has also raised a number of additional areas in which a regulatory response is required – for example, around removing the need for physical signatures on waste documentation. These are expected imminently, it says.

Executive Director of the Environmental Services Association (ESA), Jacob Hayler, said: “The Regulatory Position Statement released today 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.

“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.

“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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