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Waste Facilities

Regulation 2 of the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010 (EPR) defines a waste operation as the recovery or disposal of waste. All waste activities, other than temporary storage of waste at the place of production, are classified as either disposal or recovery operations. Where waste is not being recovered it is deemed to be part of a disposal operation and vice versa. The landfill or incineration of waste is a disposal operation. The deposit of waste to land for for construction, reclamation or agricultural benefit is a recovery operation.
 So a waste facility is a facility where a waste recovery or waste activity(s) is being carried out.

Waste Recovery and Disposal

A waste facility is defined by the type(s) and quantity of waste it accepts, and the activities carried out within that facility. A facility carrying out a waste recovery operation will have Recovery (R) codes in it’s permit or license and facility carrying out a waste disposal operation will have Disposal (D) or mixture of R and D codes. A full list of the recovery (R) and disposal (D) codes can be found (2008) in Annex IIA and IIB of the Waste Directive, (2008/98/EC).

A waste activity simply involves the management of waste as defined by the Waste Directive 2008. A Waste activity will generally be a waste operation if not defined as an installation. Paragraph 9 of Article 3 of the Waste Directive 2008 defines waste management’ as the collection, transport, recovery and disposal of waste, including the supervision of such operations and the after-care of disposal sites, and including actions taken as a dealer or broker. For the purpose of regulating these facilities, the EA National Permitting Service determines permit application for waste recovery and disposal operations.

Recovery as defined by the waste directive is: any operation the principal result of which is waste serving a useful purpose by replacing other materials which would otherwise have been used to fulfil a particular function, or waste being prepared to fulfil that function, in the plant or in the wider economy. Disposal is also defined as: any operation which is not recovery even where the operation has as a secondary consequence the reclamation of substances or energy. Annex I and II of the waste directive sets out a non-exhaustive list of disposal and recovery operations.

Waste Types

There are 3 main types of wastes depending on their sources, namely: Household or Municipal Waste, Commercial Waste and Industrial Waste. Following assessment, each waste stream must be characterised as:

  • Inert;
  • Hazardous and
  • Non Hazardous.

Inert waste is defined by the landfill directive as waste that does not undergo any significant physical, chemical or biological transformations. Inert waste will not dissolve, burn or otherwise physically or chemically react, biodegrade or adversely affect other matter with which it comes into contact in a way likely to give rise to environmental pollution or harm human health. The total leachability and pollutant content of the waste and the ecotoxicity of the leachate must be insignificant, and in particular not endanger the quality of surface water and/or groundwater.

Hazardous waste: Some types of waste are harmful to human health, or to the environment, either immediately or over an extended period of time. These are called hazardous wastes. e.g, lead acid batteries or fluorescent tubes.

Non Hazardous waste: is waste which is not on the Hazardous Waste List, and includes municipal waste and inert waste.

Classes of Regulated Facility

There are different classes of regulated facilities:

  • Installations: Generally these are facilities at which industrial, waste and intensive farming activities falling (mainly) under the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive are carried out. The activities are listed in Schedule 1 to the Regulations. Any other waste activity (recovery or disposal) will generally be a waste operation if not defined as an installation
  • Mobile Plant – Non Stationary Technical Units: The most common are mobile waste plant used in land reclamation
  • Mining waste operations: Managing extractive waste
  • Water discharge activities: These can be stand alone or part of one of the above
  • Groundwater activities: These may be stand alone or part of any of the other facilities
  • Radioactive substances activities: These can never be part of another facility.

Types of Facilities

Waste Storage (Waste Transfer Station): Building or processing site for the temporary deposition of waste. Storage prior to off-site removal for disposal or recovery, e.g. incineration, landfill, hazardous waste facility, recycling

Anaerobic digestion: This is particularly suited to organic material, and is commonly used for source-seperated fraction of municipal waste as well as sewage sludge. Anaerobic digestion, a simple process, can greatly reduce the amount of organic matter which might otherwise be destined to be dumped in landfills or burnt in incinerators.

Pressure from environmentally related legislation on solid waste disposal methods in developed countries has increased the application of anaerobic digestion as a process for reducing waste volumes and generating useful byproducts. It may either be used to process the source-separated fraction of municipal waste or alternatively combined with mechanical sorting systems, to process residual mixed municipal waste. These facilities are called mechanical biological treatment plants.

If the putrescible waste processed in anaerobic digesters were disposed of in a landfill, it would break down naturally and often anaerobically. In this case, the gas will eventually escape into the atmosphere. As methane is about 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, this has significant negative environmental effects.

In countries that collect household waste, the use of local anaerobic digestion facilities can help to reduce the amount of waste that requires transportation to centralized landfill sites or incineration facilities. This reduced burden on transportation reduces carbon emissions from the collection vehicles. If localized anaerobic digestion facilities are embedded within an electrical distribution network, they can help reduce the electrical losses associated with transporting electricity over a national grid.

Waste Treatment-Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT)
 Integration of several processes, e.g. separation, screening, anaerobic digestion, composting, heating treatment. Less harmful and / or more beneficial output waste streams. 

Waste Treatment-Material Recycling Facility (MRF): Separating & extracting mixed waste streams. Manual/mechanical separation techniques, Conveyor systems to carry, sort, screen, separate waste into components, e.g. plastics, metals, papers, etc.

Waste Recovery-Waste Composting: Biological process for the breakdown of organic material. Typical waste include, green & putrescible wastes. Usually requires pre-sorting and screening to remove non- compostables.

Waste Disposal-Landfill: Disposal of waste by burial. Three main categories: Inert, Non Hazardous and Hazardous Landfills.