Agency loses waste oil ruling

The Court of Appeal today overturned the Environment Agency’s policy that waste lubricating oils recovered for use as fuel should be defined as “waste”

The case concerns OSS Group, a collector of waste lubricating oils from garages and workshops. The company remanufactures this for sale as “clean fuel oil”, and it is burnt by roadstone plants and coal-fired power stations.

In 2006, the Environment Agency declared that CFO was a “waste” and anyone burning it had to comply with the waste incineration Directive – effectively removing the company’s market.

Waste oils could only be burnt without the need for compliance with the Directive if they were originally fuel oils, the Agency said. The High Court agreed with this last November.

However, the Court of Appeal overturned the judgment today, agreeing with OSS that if a material was “sufficiently analogous” to the raw material it replaced and did not increase environmental risks, it should cease being “waste”.

The Environment Department (DEFRA) had wanted a tighter definition. At the appeal hearing in May, it said that waste lubricating oils recovered for use as fuel should only stop being “waste” if they have “the same characteristics” as normal fuel oils. However, the court said this definition was “too narrow”.

Speaking after the case, OSS’s managing director Andy McNair said: “This is a victory for common sense. Our CFO is indistinguishable as a product from virgin fuel oil. It performs just like virgin oil, but it conserves fossil fuels and produces less harmful emissions than a number of virgin equivalents.”

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