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Waste Management & Regulation

Waste Regulation and Management

The Council of the European Community defined waste as any substance or object which the holder discards or is required to discard pursuant to the provisions of national law in force (1975).

Waste management simply means the process of managing waste, whether through disposal to get rid of the waste or recovery by pr
ocessing for subsequent reuse as a resource. According to the wikipedia, waste management is the collection, transport, processing or disposal, managing and monitoring of waste materials. 

Waste and its management has the potential for harming human health and/or pollution of the environment at the local, national and international scale. The role of waste management therefore is to ensure that waste are collected, treated and disposed of while ensuring that the potential risks to human and environmental health are eliminated or minimized. 

Any waste management activity must apply the principle of best practical environmental option (BPEO) or in terms of the IPPC Directive, appropriate measures. Under the Waste Framework Directive 2008, the waste hierarchy principle must also be applied when considering waste management options for any waste stream. 

In terms of Appropriate Measures and Waste Heirachy, the question of whether any chosen option constitute the appropriate means of dealing with the waste and provides opportunities for subsequent use of the treated waste arises. The waste hierarchy lists the following options in their order of decreasing importance of desirability;

  • reduction of the amount of waste to be managed;
  • reuse of products and materials;
  • recovery of value through materials recycling, composting and energy recovery;
  • disposal of wastes where there is no other solution.

Where an opportunity to recover waste exists, then disposal may not be the appropriate measure. However w

aste treatment is most critical in the case of waste that cannot be destroyed or detoxified and there will always be a need for the safe disposal of waste through landfill or incineration.

The handling treatment and disposal of controlled wastes are all tightly regulated. These activities are regulated under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010. This means the treatment of controlled waste may require an environmental permit. The environmental permit can be either a standard rules permit or a bespoke depending upon the type of treatment and site location. Standard rules permits are ready made, off-the-shelf permits. Provided an applicant is able to comply or meet the standard requirements, known as standard rules or conditions, they can apply for and obtain the standard rules permit of their choice. A bespoke permit will be required for operations which do not fit the standard rules criteria(s). Bespoke permits require more detailed assessment which are specific to the proposed waste management site.

Further information about applying for a standard rules or bespoke permit can be found on the Environment Agency's website.


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Terms & Definitions

Controlled wastes are mainly those wastes that have the greatest potential for causing damage to human health and the environment. They include municipal, commercial, construction and demolition, and industrial wastes. These controlled wastes can be further classified as Inert, Hazardous and Non Hazardous wastes.

Inert waste is waste that pose virtually no environmental or health threat on disposal or recovery (e.g. ceramics, rocks, etc)

Hazardous wastes are wastes that are harmful to human health, or the environment either immediately or over an extended period of time, (e.g.  asbestos, lead acid batteries, etc).

Non hazardous waste is waste which is not on the hazardous waste list, and includes municipal waste and inert waste.

Municipal solid waste include household wastes and waste from small businesses collected alongside household waste.

Household waste are the waste produced in domestic households and gardens.

Industrial waste are waste produced by manufacturing industry (can cover everything from inert to hazardous)

Commercial waste are waste produced by commercial businesses (similar to household waste but tend to contain more paper products)

Special waste is a technical term formerly used to describe specific hazardous wastes.

Biodegradable waste is waste that can be broken down by microbial action.