When is a “Waste” not a waste?

Sorry, this post is a bit long but it really is staggeringly important.

Millions of man-hours have been wastes in the EU on discussing when is a waste not a waste.  It is, apparently, beyond the mind of the regulators to accept that if a material is going to be used, then it is not going to be wasted.  Therefore, until it is actually discarded, it is not a waste.  It is much to DEFRA’s credit that it has found a way through this conundrum.

There is a tragedy for farming in the name Claire. Well, this one is spelt CL:AIRE and it stands for “Contaminated Land; Applications In Real Environments.  The original intent was, and remains, to roll this program out wider. It could be rolled out to farming but there is opposition from the Environment Agency who, presumably, blame EU regulators who say that CL:AIRE can only be used if there is not an alternative (and there is for waste-to-land).

CL:AIRE started out with the construction industry getting a bit fed up with the regulations demanded by the Environment Agency when they dug some foundations and wanted to move soils, sometimes contaminated (as with ex-industrial “brown field” sites).  The idea was to be able to write a detailed Materials Management which is within the terms laid down in a Plan Code of Practice and have the paperwork supervised by a suitably qualified Person. This would allow day to day responsibility to be transferred from the Environment Agency to industry (which does have the technical knowledge).  Under this program, there is no need to ask for permission, the Materials Management Plan is just filed.  There is no need to ask for a Permit and pay for it. There is a significant cost in preparing the paperwork and a, so far, small filing fee. Having filed the paperwork, the Environment Agency (which does have the final legal responsibility for supervision) might then, if it so chose, spot check. So, another government department was started as CL:AIRE.

Now, in fact, CL:AIRE is really just one application of AIRE (that’s the Applications in Real Environments).  There is good reason why it might be rolled out to RFL:AIRE – which stands for Recycling to Farm Land.  Farmers do not go somewhere else at 5 pm.  Farmers want to hand their land over to the next generation.  If you do not believe that farmers have actually done a pretty good job at creating and maintaining the unique patchwork of the British countryside, you should have seen it when God had it all to himself. It was very different.

The big plus about farming is that it has a direct, stable responsibility built in.  Farming is more stable and responsible than any other industrial activity by humans, including the construction industry which is now less held back by over-regulation than it was before CL:AIRE.  It is quite possible to write a detailed Code of Practice for many wastes to be recycled to farm land. The fact is that, as many Environment Agency officers agree, this is the Best Environmental Option.  It would be even more to DEFRA’s credit if it could find a way through the maze of EU regulation to extend the use of CL:AIRE to a new name; Carbon Limitation; Applications in Real Environments and include any use.

If Those trying to negotiate a deal following the Paris summit on global warming, and if Prime Minister Cameron would like to put this into his re-negotiation with the EU, the electorate would gain significantly and so would the EU, its industry and its environment.

Please send this to your MP and ask “Why not?”.

Bill Butterworth 5 December 2015