Changes to Waste Classification

The disposal and recycling of waste is now very much a global business worth an estimated £300 billion per annum. In 2010 China is understood to have imported around 7.4 million tonnes of discarded plastic, 28 million tonnes of waste paper and 5.8 million tonnes of steel scrap. One of the driving forces behind this trade is the relatively stringent EU legislation, and increasing landfill charges, both of which make the exportation of waste economically attractive.

In order to control the movement of wastes between countries there has been an international agreement to work towards a Globally Harmonised System (GHS). The EU regulatory framework that will underpin the implementation of GHS is the Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) Regulation that came into force on the 1st June 2015 and was subsequently implemented throughout the UK.

The impact of the changes to legislation upon the waste classification procedure are detailed in Technical Guidance document WM3 (Ver.1) entitled “Guidance on the classification and assessment of waste”. A pertinent change to the waste classification methodology is the replacement of Hazard Codes (H1 to H15) with Hazardous Properties (HP1 to HP15). As part of the migration to Hazardous Properties, associated thresholds that govern whether a waste is hazardous have impacted some 70% of the wastes detailed in the revised List of Wastes (LoW) Directive. In essence, waste previously deemed as Non Hazardous could now be Hazardous and vice versa.

As detailed in Appendix A of WM3 (Ver.1), the revised LoW now categorises and colour codes all wastes as one of the following:

  • Absolute Non Hazardous (AN);
  • Absolute Hazardous (AH);
  • Mirror Non Hazardous (MN); or
  • Mirror Hazardous (MH).

It is important to remember that wastes determined as absolute entries do not require analysis and assessment. For example, glass will always be Non Hazardous (AN, LoW Code 20 01 02), whereas petrol will always be Hazardous (AH, LoW Code 13 07 02*). Wastes such as soils that can potentially contain a varied range of dangerous substances need to be tested and assessed to determine if there are Mirror Non Hazardous (MN, LoW Code 17 05 03*) or Mirror Hazardous (MH, LoW Code 17 05 04). A good understanding of the type of waste produced will therefore be required in order to ensure that it is appropriately disposed.

It is vital to understand that a Waste Acceptance Criteria (WAC) test simply cannot provide sufficient information with which to accurately determine a LoW code.

Another significant alteration to the waste classification process is that the presence of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) must now be considered. POPs comprise a suite of fifteen potential contaminants including poly chlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, furans and pesticides such as dieldrin. Unfortunately due to the complexity of this suite, and the current limited capability of UK laboratories, the costs associated with analysis is significant. In order to prevent budgets being adversely effected by the unnecessary analysis for POPs it will be important for waste producers to consider the presence/absence of potential sources of these. This can be best achieved through an understanding of the current and historical uses of the site as obtained from desk study research, ground investigations and risk assessments.

As always, underpinning the entire classification process is an appropriate sampling methodology to ensure that the materials recovered, tested and assessed are representative of those requiring off-site disposal. Appendix D of WM3 (Ver.1) specifies that “You need to prepare a sampling plan before you take the first sample. This will ensure that you have considered the relevant factors and take sufficient representative samples”. It is important for waste producers to remember that the costs associated with carrying out a more thorough approach to analysis and assessment can be negated if the volumes of Hazardous waste removed from the site can be reduced by even a single load.

An alternative, far more cost effective and sustainable approach would be to not consider soils excavated to facilitate a development as waste, but instead as a valuable site won resource. The Definition of Waste: Development Industry Code of Practice (DoW CoP) developed by CL:AIRE is a process that enables both the reuse of excavated materials on the site of origin as well as the movement of materials between sites. Compliance with the DoW CoP is considered a less onerous process as opposed to applying for an Environmental Permit or Waste Exemption and involves the implementation of a Materials Management Plan (MMP) that has been signed off by a Qualified Person registered with the Environment Agency.

Although the significant changes to the waste classification procedure can seem daunting, CET can effectively guide you through the process and use their expert knowledge of the complex legislation to ensure cost effective solutions and statutory compliance.

Find our more about our waste classification services.