With the rise in environmental awareness, many farmers see waste reduction and recycling as a crucial part of their business. Storing and using waste on the farm can require an environmental permit which are costly to obtain and time consuming. The Environment Agency which processes and regulated environmental permits has a significant backlog in application which can now take up to six months to process due to impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
An alternative option which can allow reuse and recycling activities without the need for an environmental permit is waste exemptions. These exemptions provide strict limits on the scope of activities as well as the quantities of waste stored or processed. However, they do provide an opportunity for small scale recycling initiatives avoiding the costly environmental permit route. The exemptions are intended to provide a light touch regulatory approach to small, low risk waste management activities.
The majority of waste exemptions require registration normally with the Environment Agency which lasts for three years. With the exception the T11 exemption relating to waste electrical and electronic equipment, registration is free of charge. The exemptions are grouped in four categories:
- Using waste (exemptions U1 to U16)
- Disposing of waste (Exceptions D1 to D8)
- Treating waste (exemptions T1 to T33)
- Storing waste (exemptions S1 to S3)
Registration is by an online form with basic details such as the operator’s name, address and location of activity. There is also a facility to register exemptions in bulk where you have more than 30 sites to register.
It is important to remember that if you do not operate within the limits and conditions of an exemption, you will not be exempt from the requirement to have an environmental permit and your activity will be illegal. The Environment Agency can de-register your exemption in these circumstances and they may also take enforcement action, especially if your activity harms people or the environment.
One exemption often utilised by farmers is the U1 waste exemption: use of waste in construction. This exemption allows you to use suitable waste for construction. Construction includes building or engineering work – including repairing, altering, maintaining or improving existing work and preparatory or landscaping work. Examples of the type of work where the exemption would apply are included:
- using crushed bricks, concrete, rocks and aggregate to create a noise bund around a new development and then using soil to landscape the area
- using road planings and rubble to build a track, path or bridleway
- using woodchip to construct a track, path or bridleway
- bringing in soil from somewhere else to use in landscaping at housing developments
The exemption cannot be used to treat waste to make it suitable or for land reclamation unless it is simply to fill a hollow. It is also unsuitable for activities that will go beyond the three year registration limit at the same location or the storage of waste for more than 12 months before its use.
The exemption lists the types of waste which can be used and includes the relevant waste codes, such as concrete (17 01 01), bricks (17 01 02) and Mixtures of concrete, bricks, tiles and ceramics not containing hazardous substances (17 01 07). The total quantity of waste that can be used under the exemption varies between 50,000 tonnes and 1,000 tonnes depending upon the waste material. Concrete, bricks and similar materials have a limit of 5,000 tonnes, soils are generally limited to 1,000 tonnes and the top 50,000 tonnes limit is restricted to bituminous mixtures (17 03 02) and road sub base only (17 05 04) in respect of road construction only.
Whilst the waste exemption system is designed to be self-regulating, the Environment Agency may visit the site to ensure that you are complying with the limits of the relevant exemption. Therefore, it is important to retain relevant documentation such as duty of care waste transfer notes for any wastes imported to the exemption site.
If you require any advice regarding the use of waste exemptions or environmental permits, please contact one of the Regulatory Team at Jacksons on 01642 356500/0191 2322574.