More waste materials could become products

The Environment Agency is seeking suggestions for materials that could be moved outside waste controls.

The Environment Agency and the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) have issued a call for proposals for the next round of waste quality protocols.1 The quality protocols project aims to identify when wastes have been fully recovered and can be considered products (ENDS Report 376, pp 19-20). Users of these materials no longer require an environmental permit or exemption.

Since the project began in 2006, the Agency and WRAP have developed protocols for materials including compost and non-packaging plastics. They say this has increased materials reuse.

For a waste to be considered suitable, it must be capable of being used at the site of production without further processing. It must also be produced in large tonnages and be usable as a direct substitute for virgin material. Proposals must be submitted by 8 April.

In December, the Agency issued a long-awaited protocol for digestate from anaerobic digestion plants.2 This will no longer be considered waste if it is made from certain source-segregated wastes - including municipal food and garden waste. It must also be processed to the BSI’s PAS 110 standard.

The protocol differs little from the draft issued last year (ENDS Report 399, p 41). It is still subject to approval from the European Commission’s technical standards committee, but this is expected to be a formality.

The Agency also issued a consultation on a quality protocol for paper sludge ash (PSA).3 This is the material left over from burning the sludge produced when de-inking and recycling newsprint.

In 2006, some 275,000 tonnes of sludge was produced by the UK’s three paper mills. This was all burned, leading to around 125,000 tonnes of ash. Some 70% of this ash was used for brick and cement manufacture, among other things. But the rest - some 37,000 tonnes - was landfilled.

The amount of PSA produced each year is expected to grow soon. Palm Paper is due to open a mill in Kings Lynn, Norfolk, by the end of 2009 capable of producing 400,000 tonnes of recycled newsprint a year (ENDS Report 389, pp 16-17).

Under the Agency’s proposals, PSA will no longer be considered waste if used in cement and brick manufacture, as a liming agent for agricultural land, a desiccant for animal bedding or a sewage sludge stabiliser. It must meet composition and leachability standards set by the Agency. If it is used in cement or brick manufacture it must also meet the BSI’s relevant engineering standards.

The consultation closes on 12 March.

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