Fly-tipping, EFRA Waste Report, and National Planning Policy
Oct 30th 2014
Farmers warned following huge fly-tipping scam
Farmers have been warned to be on their guard following a huge fly-tipping scam in which large quantities of industrial waste were disguised as bags of silage and dumped on a disused farm near Edinburgh Airport. Kerry Barr, NFU Scotland’s manager for the Lothian region, said in the Farmers Weekly, “We’ve never seen fly tipping on this scale before.” The NFU has advised farmers to check any disused sheds to make sure nothing similar has been dumped.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has been appealing for witnesses following the incident, which was recorded in July. Approximately 200 tonnes of building rubble, paper and clothing were hidden in the 600 bales which were dumped in sheds and outbuildings. It is estimated that the legal disposal of the waste would have cost £60,000.
SEPA’s Executive director Calum MacDonald has advised farmers and landowners to review security on their properties. “When intact the bales have the exact same appearance as an agricultural silage bale and this may be why this wasn’t noticed when the waste was deposited at the site,” he said. SEPA says this is the first time it has come across waste being deliberately disguised as agricultural produce in Scotland, but it does know of such cases in other parts of the UK and in Europe.
Waste Management Report published by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA)
The EFRA Committee (appointed by the House of Commons to scrutinise Defra’s policies, expenditure and administration) has published a report of an inquiry into waste management which followed Defra’s decision to step back from certain areas of waste management. The report covers waste management in England. In its summary, EFRA says that Defra decided to step back in April 2014 “in areas where businesses are better placed to act and there is no clear market failure,” yet at the same time stated its commitment to moving towards a “zero waste economy.”
The report makes a number of recommendations covering four main areas:
- Sustainable waste and resource management: Instead of stepping back, “Defra should take the lead role and responsibility for waste management policy and ensure that the value of waste as a resource is fully realised.” EFRA estimates that about 177 million tonnes of waste is thrown away every year in England. About 43% of household waste was recycled in England in 2012-13 but the annual rate of increase has started to slow. The Committee is concerned that England will not play its role in meeting the European requirement for the UK to recycle at least 50% of its household waste by 2020 without significant Government intervention. This is particularly worrying, EFRA says, in light of recent proposals from the European Commission to increase household recycling targets to 70% by 2030. It calls on Defra to facilitate and encourage learning from best practice to help local authorities achieve the best possible recycling service in their area.
- Waste treatment capacity: EFRA is concerned about “the limited availability of waste treatment capacity in England and the resulting popularity of exporting refuse-derived fuel to Europe.” It urges Defra to provide the waste sector with clear guidance on how much waste treatment capacity is needed to gain an optimal balance between export and local treatment.
- Anaerobic digestion plants: The greatest benefit of this technology is in dealing with waste, says EFRA, not purpose-grown crops. It also says that anaerobic digestion is the most preferable recovery option for food waste, yet about four million tonnes of food waste still gets sent to landfill each year. It urges the Government to “find ways of diverting more food waste out of the residual waste stream by methods which are economically and environmentally viable and suitable to local circumstances.”
- Incinerators: The Committee urges Defra to ensure that only genuinely residual waste is sent to energy from waste plants such as incinerators. It does not believe that high levels of recycling are incompatible with the use of energy from waste plants, as long as only genuinely residual waste is sent for energy recovery. EFRA also recommends that the Government encourages the use of heat outputs from incinerators to gain maximum efficiencies from the process.
EFRA also recommends that the Government takes action to reduce the number of fires at waste management sites. The full report is available as a PDF download – see the parliament website for further details.
National Planning Policy for Waste
Defra meanwhile has published a National Planning Policy for Waste, which builds on the Government’s Waste Management Plan for England. Defra says that the Waste Management Plan “sets out the Government’s ambition to work towards a more sustainable and efficient approach to resource use and management.” It says that, in preparing Local Plans, waste planning authorities should “drive waste management up the hierarchy.” The hierarchy places priorities on methods of waste management, with prevention as the first priority and disposal as the last resort, as follows:
- Prevention: “The most effective environmental solution is often to reduce the generation of waste, including the re-use of products.”
- Preparing for Re-Use: “Products that have become waste can be checked, cleaned or repaired so that they can be re-used.”
- Recycling: “Waste materials can be reprocessed into products, materials, or substances.”
- Other Recovery: “Waste can serve a useful purpose by replacing other materials that would otherwise have been used.”
- Disposal: “The least desirable solution where none of the above options is appropriate.”
The policy also advises planning authorities to “consider the need for additional waste management capacity of more than local significance” and sets out guidelines for identifying need for waste management facilities by using a proportionate evidence base. Further guidelines are provided on identifying suitable sites and areas for waste management facilities, determining planning applications, and monitoring and reporting.