TWO THIRDS of landfill operators this week failed to meet a European deadline under which they have to declare what type of waste they will accept.
Those operating hazardous waste landfills could now face criminal charges if they continue to accept hazardous material like asbestos or contaminated spoil.
By Tuesday's deadline only 429 out of 1,200 landfill sites had registered what waste they would now accept, said the Environment Agency.
Only a few operators will be allowed to register their sites late if they have good reason for missing Tuesday's deadline, the Agency added.
The requirement to classify sites according to the type of waste they will accept comes under the European Landfill Directive which came into force this week. The directive is intended to discourage landfilling and reduce the risk of contamination if a landfill site fails.
Landfill operators were required to submit 'conditioning plans' to the Agency outlining whether they will take hazardous, non-hazardous or inert material.
If they accept hazardous material they must also eventually improve landfill engineering to ensure leachate or waste does not escape into the environment.
This is expected to discourage many sites from accepting hazardous material.
The low number of operators meeting the Tuesday deadline sparked fears of a dramatic fall in the number of sites accepting hazardous waste.
The Institute of Waste Management warned that if the number of sites remains low, hazardous material would have to be transported over longer distances to reach landfills.
But a spokesman for Biffa Waste said he expected the number of hazardous waste sites to rise over the next month as firms got round to registering.