‘Welcome new position’: Environment Agency softens stance on hazardous waste wood

The Environment Agency (EA) has released a new regulatory position statement (RPS) allowing operators to move, store, treat and mix ‘amber’ waste wood as non-hazardous waste under a waste transfer note.

On 1 September 2023, the EA outlined that ten items of waste wood from buildings constructed before 2007 will now be classified as types of hazardous waste, meaning waste recyclers will not accept them unless they have undergone appropriate tests to prove they are not hazardous. 

These items were: barge boards, external fascia, soffit boards, external joinery, external doors, roof timber, tiling cladding, tiling battens, timber frames and timber joists.

However, in a new RPS published last week, the EA has altered its stance, allowing operators to move, store and treat and mix items of ‘amber’ waste wood as non-hazardous waste under a waste transfer note. 

Amber items of waste wood are from buildings built between 1950 and 2006 and are:

  • roof timbers

  • tiling and cladding battens

  • timber frames and joists

Amber items of waste wood are also from buildings built between 1950 and 1995 and are:

  • barge boards, fascias and soffits

  • external timber cladding

  • external doors

  • external windows

The RPS does not change the legal requirement to have and comply with an environmental permit for a waste operation or waste installation. The RPS also does not change the legal requirement to transfer hazardous waste in line with the legal requirements surrounding the transport of hazardous waste.

However, it does mean that the EA will “not normally” take enforcement action, provided that: 

  • The activity meets the description set out in this RPS

  • The conditions set out in this RPS are applied with 

  • The activity must not cause (or be likely to cause) pollution of the environment or harm to human health, and must not: cause a risk to water, air, soil, plants or animals, cause a nuisance through noise or odours or adversely affect the countryside or places of special interest. 

The EA has asked the Wood Recyclers Association (WRA) to provide evidence on behalf of the waste wood sector to determine whether the amber items are non-hazardous.

To do this, the WRA requires producers of amber waste wood items to

  • sample and test regularly (at least once a quarter)

  • give permission to their chosen laboratory to submit the raw testing results to the WRA for uploading to the WRA HazWasteOnline folder

The EA has said it is important that producers support this programme, because if the WRA does not have enough test results to present the evidence needed to the EA before this RPS is withdrawn on 1 October 2024, then amber waste wood must be handled as hazardous waste wood when this RPS is withdrawn. 

To present the results to the EA, the WRA will need to have all test results by 1 September 2024.

Eliza Chanin, compliance manager at Reconomy, said: “We welcome the Environment Agency’s new position on the storage and treatment of potentially hazardous waste wood. With this regulatory position in place for a year, it is vital that industry works together to ensure that supply chain operates collaboratively to implement this new guidance. 

“If proper sampling and testing is not forthcoming, the Environment Agency could withdraw this guidance and impose more stringent waste management legislation which would increase the burden on removing ‘amber’ waste wood from domestic premises, demolition sites or other buildings.

“We urge relevant businesses to engage with trade bodies and other stakeholders that can support on compliance to ensure they are getting this right first time.”