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How Waste Management Licensing Became Environmental Permitting in the UK

environmental permittingA so called, “One Stop Shop” for the environmental regulation of sites operated by the waste management industry in the UK, was introduced in 2008 in the UK for Environmental Permits by Defra UK, and similar simplification measures were adopted in Wales and Scotland.

Until this act of reguatory simplification, waste facility operators may have needed to apply separately under several different regulations which applied to their activities, depending on their business operations.

Environmental permits (EPs) were the new buzz-word in environmental regulation in those days, and the concept was welcomed by the waste management industry.

The UK environmental regulations were simplified for the first time in years with the advent of Environmental Permitting, but the measure went largely unreported other than in the technical press, and the government and EU continued to be criticized for what was seen as an ever rising burden of complexity of regulation by many politicians.

The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations (EP) were brought into effect on the 6 April 2008. At their heart these regulations continued to implement all the re-existing statutes, but were aimed at delivering a risk-based approach to streamline and simplify regulation, and in particular this has been successful in reducing the bureaucratic requirements for the less high risk sites.

That’s not bad as these represent the majority of businesses and sites. Whereas both waste activities and industrial activities, were previously regulated under separate Waste Management Licensing (WML), and Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) regulations, both have been from that date regulated together under a single regime.

This was quite a difficult process as the two sets of regulations differ in detail, although both seek to protect the environment by minimising and controlling emissions. Subsequantly, Defra has been extending the same methods to other environmental regulations which have been brought under the EP umbrella, over a period of time. The greatest benefits enjoyed by process operators, has been in the waste sector where multiple authorisations have until now been an unwelcome feature of the way the old WML and IPPC regimes impacted their businesses. At the core of the EP simplification philosophy was be the publication of a series of standard permits for each type of site.

More have been written since and have been made available online for most types of waste management facilities. The types of installations initially stadndardised were those where waste is processed such as in Waste Transfer Stations, Household and Civic Amenity Waste sites, and Materials Recycling Facilities (MRFs). The full range of the original regulatory requirements still applies to large and high risk installations, but there is now an option of applying for a standard permit, which is now available for low to medium risk facilities .

This is subject to capacity limits on standard permits which will restrict their use to most sites to treating 75,000 tonnes of waste per year (but, we understand that this could be as low as 5,000 tonnes per year for outdoor waste transfer stations [Please check the Defra/EA sites for updates]). The option to apply for a bespoke permit for all sites remains open to applicants who wish to maximise operational flexibility, although this does also revert a project to the much criticised old system which was often slated for its high application costs, and potential for delays in agreement which would delay project programmes.

For those familiar with the Waste Management Licensing Regime, the EP regime brought in requirements similar to those seen in PPC permits, including also tightening staff competency requirements and formalised the requirements for Environmental Management Systems (EMS) including waste improvement plans.

Operators of existing sites did not normally need their consents/permits to be re-negotiated. We understand that existing PPC permits or waste management licence holders did not have to re-apply for an Environmental Permit or EP.

Multiple Sites Under Environmental Permitting (EP)?

For operations eligible for standard permits, the EP regulations brought a potential opportunity for the site operator to save money and streamline permit administration. This came about due to the fact that the new regulations (Reg. 17(d)) allow an operator to hold one standard permit that can apply to more than one site in different locations. Operating a number of sites under a single permit would be a lot cheaper when making the application and in future subsistence fees.

The Future for Environmental Permitting (EP)?

The second phase of the EP Programme (EPP2) planned by Defra is now well underway, and that consists of extending the common permitting approach to a number of other environmental permitting regimes.

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