Inconsistent regulation pushes polluted soil into Scotland

A major waste management company recently hauled soil from a PCB-contaminated site in south-east England to a Scottish landfill where local regulators have failed to impose PCB restrictions considered standard elsewhere in Britain. The incident illustrates how inconsistent landfill regulation is distorting environmental markets. The soil, too contaminated for a thermal treatment plant which burned other batches from the site, would otherwise have gone for high-temperature incineration.

According to Government guidance issued in 1994, "large quantities of materials such as soil" should not be landfilled if they contain more than 50ppm of PCBs. The guidance did not come out of the blue: in 1985, the Hazardous Waste Inspectorate had advised that wastes containing more than 10ppm of PCBs should not be routinely landfilled.

Remarkably, however, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) recently advised consultants w

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