Scotland expands hazardous waste list ahead of England and Wales

Scotland has become the first part of the UK to apply the expanded EU hazardous waste list - albeit two and a half years behind the EU deadline. For the time being, the Scottish Executive has decided against wider reform of the "special waste" regime, although it is observing developments in England with interest.

Regulations amending Scotland's controls on special waste will take effect on 1 July.1 The principal effect is to apply revisions to the EU hazardous waste list which were agreed by Member States in 2000 and should have been brought into force by January 2002 (ENDS Reports 307, pp 37-38  and 314, p 51 ).

The expanded definition will sharply expand the volumes of waste falling under the special waste regime, bringing increases in waste management costs to many industry sectors. The changes coincide with the ban on co-disposal from 16 July and the dwindling capacity for landfilling of hazardous waste. There appear to be no merchant landfill facilities on the cards in Scotland, leaving the country dependent on English facilities.

Among the challenges facing the industrial waste sector is the provision of adequate capacity for pre-treatment of waste before landfill. Recognising that the expanded definition of special waste will create an additional permitting workload for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, the Scottish Executive has decided to delay the application of the pollution prevention and control (PPC) regime to waste treatment sites by up to 27 months.

The new regulations give revised deadlines for the receipt of permit applications of 30 June 2006 for non-hazardous biological waste sites and 30 November 2006 for non-hazardous physico-chemical treatment sites taking more than 50 tonnes per day. The deadline for treatment sites taking more than 10 tonnes of hazardous waste per day is unchanged at 31 August 2005.

Scotland's revised definition of special waste will also encompass hazardous wastes from agriculture, mining and quarrying, which are currently exempt from all waste legislation in the UK. The Executive recently consulted on plans to regulate wastes from farms, mines and quarries, and intends to introduce regulations at the earliest opportunity (ENDS Report 349, p 50 ).

The regulations also replace the current exemption from special waste controls for "household" waste with one for "domestic" waste - the term used in the 1991 EU Directive on hazardous waste. However, they make an exception for domestic asbestos waste, which will now explicitly fall under the special waste regime where it is removed by a contractor.

An important change for the clinical waste sector is that the revised regulations remove the blanket provision that prescription medicines automatically qualify as special waste. Instead, Scotland will now rely on entries in the EU hazardous waste list which identify particular medicines and chemicals containing dangerous substances as being "hazardous" waste.

For the time being, the Executive has shied away from wider reforms of the special waste regime despite a major consultation exercise in 2001, when Scottish Ministers were proposing reforms broadly in line with those planned in England and Wales (ENDS Report 315, pp 46-47 ).

In England, the Environment Department (DEFRA) remains committed to implementing widespread reforms, including a requirement for producers of hazardous waste to register with the Environment Agency and maintain records of waste production, along with the abolition of the requirement to pre-notify the Agency and pay regulatory fees for each shipment.

DEFRA's plans have been subject to repeated delays, but the latest word is that draft regulations will appear in June. These will also broaden the definition of special waste in line with the Scottish regulations. The Environment Agency has been working on the assumption that the hazardous waste regulations will be implemented in October.

In a consultation paper on special waste last November, the Scottish Executive said it may still consider making changes along similar lines to those planned in England "if it can be demonstrated that these represent a favourable balance between costs and benefits." It promises to monitor the schemes in England and Wales.

Despite the Executive's reluctance to impose new controls on waste producers, its regulations introduce a series of measures to improve record keeping at sites producing hazardous waste. Producers are already required to keep copies of consignment notes. They will now also have to keep a record of the quantity, nature, origin and, where appropriate, destination of all special waste they produce.

The regulations also introduce new provisions for mutual recognition of consignment notes during cross-border trading.

Finally, they belatedly transpose a requirement in the 1991 Directive that, where waste is already mixed with other wastes, it must be separated where "technically and economically feasible" and where such separation is necessary in order to prevent harm to the environment or human health. The Executive advises operators who are in doubt about the circumstances in which waste should be separated to contact SEPA.