Open letter: ESA airs concerns over new POPs regs for domestic seating

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) has sent an open letter to the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) to air its concerns over the new persistent organic pollutants (POPs) regs for domestic seating.

The ESA says the current position is “unworkable” and the sector needs some “pragmatism” on this from the regulator.

Its key concerns arise from the recent Environment Agency guidance on this issue, saying it specifies that shredding prior to incineration must incorporate some very specific dust abatement techniques.

The ESA says that whilst it is standard industry good practice for existing shredding operations to utilise dust management and suppression systems, there are currently very few facilities with the specific dust abatement techniques required by the Environment Agency’s guidance.

It says such facilities would require a large capital investment, and an environmental permit or variation to existing permit to operate.

“Unfortunately, Environment Agency permitting timescales are now often in excess of 12 months, a timescale which, notwithstanding other considerations, is itself setting the minimum realistic timeframe to commence such operations,” the letter states.

The ESA says it seems “disproportionate” to require such a rapid and fundamental change to the way these items are managed when they become waste after “householders have happily been sitting on in their homes – often for decades”.

“We urge consideration of regulatory pragmatism as well as suitable transitional arrangements,” it says.

The ESA says it’s “vital” that Environment Agency and Defra consider providing derogation for at least 12 months to some specific aspects of the guidance in relation to dust abatement at shredding facilities to enable processing of this material utilising existing best practice dust suppression techniques and onward management at energy recovery facilities whilst additional abatement infrastructure is installed.

We urge consideration of regulatory pragmatism as well as suitable transitional arrangements

“Such an approach would provide an appropriate, risk based, transitional solution and would avoid the possibility of generating an ‘orphan waste’ or indeed ‘sofa mountains’,” the letter states.

“Without such derogation we are concerned that in the short to medium term many operators will have no alternative to either refusing to accept this waste stream or having to stockpiling it whilst suitable outlets are found. Unfortunately, there is limited spare capacity to store this waste material at existing permitted sites.”

The ESA highlights other issues around waste export and Producer Responsibility.

On export, it says that whilst the existing Environment Agency guidance enables this material to be exported as Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF), there are “strong concerns” that the requirement to specify POPs contamination on export documentation could have a significant impact on whether receiving countries will actually continue to be willing to accept this waste.

“We urge dialogue between the EA/Defra and recipient country authorities to ensure this risk does not become a reality,” it says.

On Producer Responsibility, the ESA says that the waste sector and local authorities are now having to go to “great lengths and expense” to manage this waste stream in a different way.

“Whilst we appreciate it would not be a quick fix, we urge government to consider options for extended producer responsibility to be developed for this waste stream and potentially other future waste streams identified as POPS contaminated.”

Read the full letter here.

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